Wrongful Death Case Reversed by Appellate Court

You can be sued if you are a title owner of a car and the driver is negligent and causes an injury. In other words, if you sell your car or gift an auto to another and your name remains on the title you may have legal responsibility to any injured party from an accident. It doesn’t mean you will ultimately lose the lawsuit, but who wants to get sued? Answer: nobody. Whether the title owner is responsible depends if they are a “beneficial” owner.

There is a recent case from the 5th District Court of Appeal involving a death resulting from the negligent operation of a vehicle that was gifted to a woman(happened to be the Defendant’s ex-wife), but which was titled in names of both defendant and ex-wife. The case explains the legal concept of beneficial ownership. In this case the Court concluded that the Defendant was not the beneficial owner because he never had access or authority over the vehicle, never had a key, never insured it, and never had vehicle registered in the two years between the vehicle purchase and the accident.

The 5th District Court of Appeal is the appellate court for St. Augustine and St. Johns County and is located in Daytona Beach.


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