The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the driver, Nichols, did have the permission of his employer (Monro) to drive the truck involved in the accident. Therefore Monro’s insurer properly disclaimed coverage:
Under Vehicle and Traffic Law § 388 (1), the negligence of the operator of a motor vehicle may be imputed to the owner of the vehicle who “operat[ed] the same with the permission, express or implied, of such owner”… . The statute “creates a presumption that the vehicle is being operated with the owner’s consent, but the presumption may be rebutted by substantial evidence showing that the operation was without permission”… .
We find that respondents rebutted the presumption of permissive use. Michael Kio, Monro’s store manager and Nichols’ superior, testified that he advised Nichols on more than one occasion of the company’s longstanding policy proscribing an employee’s personal use of company vehicles, including the truck. Nichols acknowledged to Kio that he was aware and understood this policy and that he did not have permission to operate the truck for personal use or use outside of business hours, and that it was to be used for store business only. As Nichols stated in his written submission to Supreme Court, “I knew I was not supposed to be driving the company truck off company time.” The statements of Kio and Nichols regarding company policy and their understanding of that policy proscribing personal use stand uncontradicted. “Uncontradicted statements by both the vehicle’s owner and its driver that the driver was operating the vehicle without the owner’s permission will constitute substantial evidence that rebuts the presumption” … . Matter of Progressive Specialty Ins. Co. (Travelers Prop. Cas. Co. of Am.), 2021 NY Slip Op 07598, Third Dept 12-30-21