The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the dealer (Zaki’s) which sold a car to the hit-and-run driver (Marcial) in this pedestrian traffic accident case demonstrated it was not the owner of the car at the time of the accident. The transaction was complete and the driver was insured. When the dealer submitted the title paperwork to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) a mistake was discovered requiring that the dealer submit corrected paperwork. Therefore, technically, the dealer was not in compliance with requirement that the title paperwork be submitted to the DMV within five days. That technical defect did not affect the validity of the transfer of ownership to the driver:
Vehicle and Traffic Law § 420-a authorizes qualified automobile dealers to issue a temporary vehicle registration to a person to whom the dealer has sold or transferred a vehicle … . The temporary registration is valid for a period of 30 days after the date of issuance (see Vehicle and Traffic Law § 420-a). Before issuing the temporary registration, the dealer must comply with certain statutory requirements, and, upon issuing the temporary registration, the dealer must send the permanent vehicle registration application to the commissioner of the DMV within five calendar days … . A dealer who fails to comply with the statutory requirements regarding vehicle registration procedures may be estopped from denying ownership of the vehicle and be held liable as if it were, in fact, the owner of the vehicle … .
It is not disputed that Zaki’s complied with all of the statutory requirements before issuing the temporary registration, and that Marcial had obtained insurance on the vehicle before being issued the temporary registration and taking the vehicle into his possession … . Further, Zaki’s evidence established that Zaki’s was diligent in its efforts to comply with the statutory requirements concerning the permanent registration, and that its failure to do so within the statutory five days was because of an error in the title that required correction, and not any negligence by Zaki’s in its statutory obligations … . In addition, there is no evidence that Zaki’s engaged in any act whereby it held itself out as the owner of the vehicle on the date of the accident or that it gained any financial advantage by failing to submit the permanent registration application within the five days following the issuance of the temporary registration … . Gonzalez v Zaki’s Auto Sales Corp., 2020 NY Slip Op 02644 Second Dept 5-6-20