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Two days before her rental car struck another vehicle head on, the defendant leased it from Practicar using a fake name and cash to pay for the week. In the recently decided case of Mamo v Morgan, the courts have found the rental car company partly responsible for the collision, though the defendant’s boyfriend caused the crash while fleeing from the police.

The plaintiff was seriously injured in the collision and they sued Morgan, the driver, Jordan, the car’s lessee, and Practicar, the rental company that owned the rented Nissan. Practicar brought a motion to dismiss plaintiff’s action on the basis that it was not vicariously liable for Morgan’s driving of its Nissan, but the motion was denied. To reach this decision, the court considered Section 192 of the Highway Traffic Act, which imposes liability on the owner of a vehicle, even when that vehicle is leased under a fake name and the lessee consents to another person driving the vehicle.  In this case, Practicar was found liable because the defendant to whom it had leased had in turn lent the car to her boyfriend.

The court wrote that the Highway Traffic Act is designed to protect innocent third party victims from owners who are not sufficiently diligent in checking who they rent their vehicles to. At the time of the lease agreement, Practicar took no steps to confirm Jordan’s identity or confirm that the driver’s license she presented was valid.

The court noted that the name Jordan used to sign for the agreement is irrelevant. Regardless of the name she called herself, there is no confusion about her being the lessee. And nothing in statute or in the case law that suggests this kind of fraud makes the owner less liable. As owner of the Nissan, Practicar admitted that it granted Jordan possession of the Nissan when it gave her the keys.

The court’s ruling on Mamo v Morgan is proof that giving up the keys doesn’t mean you’re giving up responsibility for the car. So if you want to live vicariously through someone, make sure they are a safe driver.

Regardless of the name she called herself, there is no confusion about her being the lessee.