Pioneer State's effort to impute ownership is denied
Kelly Kenny borrowed her ex-husband's car to attend her college graduation. She was hurt in a car wreck, and only then discovered the car was not insured. Pioneer State attempted to impute ownership to her, in an effort to make her ineligible for PIP benefits. (The owner operator of an uninsured vehicle cannot collect wages, medical coverage or other PIP benefits from any insurer--regardless of fault.)
The Court of Appeals panel noted that Ms. Kenny did not live with the borrower of the vehicle, did not know that he had agreed to purchase the car, had driven it only a handful of times (before her ex- agreed to buy it), did not possess keys to the car and had borrowed it on this occasion only for the one day--not indefinitely. On this basis, the Court determined that the trial court had properly rejected Pioneer State's attempt to make Kenny the "owner" of the car as a matter of law: the case was returned to the jury to decide factually whether she was an "owner" and ineligible for wages and medical.