Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Vehicle’s Registered Owner Not Always The Legal Owner For Liability Purposes

Under the right set of facts, the owner of a car can be liable for the driver’s actions.  CLICK HERE.  So you ask, just who is the “owner” of a vehicle in Nevada for liability purposes?

774604_car_accident_1 This precise issue was raised in the Nevada Supreme Court case of Barr v. Gaines, 103 Nev. 548, 746 P.2d 634 (1987).  In Barr, an injured motorist brought suit against the father of the driver of a car, arguing that, as the registered owner of the car, the father was vicariously liable.  The father argued against liability, stating that he had transferred his interest in the subject vehicle to his son prior to the accident and had the documents to prove the sale.

The court looked to N.R.S. 482.085 for a definition of the word “owner”.

N.R.S. 482.085  “Owner” defined.  “Owner” means a person who holds the legal title of a vehicle and whose name appears on the certificate of title, and any lienholder whose name appears on the certificate of title. If a vehicle is the subject of an agreement for the conditional sale or lease thereof with or without the right of purchase upon performance of the conditions stated in the agreement and with an immediate right of possession vested in the conditional vendee or lessee, or if a mortgagor of a vehicle is entitled to possession, then the conditional vendee or lessee or mortgagor shall be deemed the owner for the purpose of this chapter.

The father prevailed in spite of the fact that the father’s name was still on the “legal title”.  The court found that the failure of the transferee son to comply with Nevada’s registration statute did not invalidate the transfer of the father’s title to his son, nor did it render the father the owner of the vehicle for purposes of the family purpose statute.

About Michael Mills

Mr. Mills practices in the area of civil litigation and appeals, with particular experience in matters involving trucking liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, premises liability, products liability and defense of personal injury. Mr. Mills is a member of the Trucking Insurance Defense Association, the Defense Research Institute Trucking Committee and the Nevada Motor Transport Association. Mr. Mills is licensed to practice before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Utah Supreme Court. He is also licensed to appear before the United States Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Nevada and Utah, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Mills has created 3 Blogs for the benefit of the insurance industry. He serves as editor and publisher of the Nevada Insurance Law Blog, the Nevada Coverage and Bad Faith Blog and the Nevada Trucking Law Blog.

Find Mike Mills on Google+