“No other driver permitted”

by Walter Olson on October 27, 2009

That clause means what it says, Steering Wheelan Illinois appeals court decides in an insurance claim against Enterprise car rental [Madison County Record]

{ 10 comments }

1 E-Bell 10.27.09 at 3:00 pm

While this may appear to be a no-brainer, I know of at least one state – Maryland – that requires rental car companies to provide coverage to any driver of a rental car, as long as the renter gave permission for that person to drive the car.

See Allstate v. Enterprise.

2 VMS 10.27.09 at 7:12 pm

What bothers me is that the court is not sticking ot the merits of the dispute (i.e. whether “NO” means no in the rental contract. The court instead decides that a collateral attack is necessary in its opinion: It’s worth noting that Markeith Reynolds has a history of linguistic confusion. Perhaps he didn’t understand what “unlawful” meant prior to his 2007 conviction for “unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.”

3 Richard Nieporent 10.27.09 at 7:44 pm

It’s worth noting that Markeith Reynolds has a history of linguistic confusion. Perhaps he didn’t understand what “unlawful” meant prior to his 2007 conviction for “unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.”

VMS, the above was not the court’s comment but rather the person who wrote the article.

4 David Schwartz 10.28.09 at 11:01 am

The rental agreement does not prohibit him from allowing someone else to drive the car. Absence of permission is not prohibition. If I say “I prohibit you from doing X”, then doing X violates the agreement. If I say “I do not permit you to do X”, then doing X only violates the agreement if there is some reason you would need my permission to do X.

Since he did not have that permission, but was not prohibited from doing so, he violated the rental agreement if, and only if, he needed the owner’s permission to allow someone else to drive the car. Normally, when one rents something, one may do with it what one pleases without any special additional permission, assuming someone is not doing something that creates unreasonable additional risk or does damage to the thing rented.

This is not sophistry but the ordinary meanings of the words used.

5 Bill Alexander 10.28.09 at 1:04 pm

The linked article starts with the sentence “”NO OTHER DRIVER PERMITTED” is an all caps line on the first page of a four-page Enterprise Leasing car rental agreement.”

If this statement is true, I don’t see how the rental agreement does not prohibit him from allowing someone else to drive the car.

6 panthan 10.28.09 at 1:46 pm

This is not sophistry
Yes, it is. Maybe unintentional sophistry (if such exists — I haven’t looked up the word), but still.

The statement “I do not permit” implies that permission is required, for one thing. Secondly, the only rational understanding of “no other drivers permitted” is “other drivers prohibited”.

7 David Schwartz 10.28.09 at 7:18 pm

Bill Alexander: Lack of permission is not prohibition. The rental agreement explicitly does not permit it, which means one cannot do it *if* (and only if) one requires permission to do it.

Panthan: The statement “I do not permit” does *not* imply that permission is required, and even if it did, that implication would be true or false depending on whether or not permission actually was required. A statement that has an implication cannot make that implication true. In general, it simply fails to operate if the implication is false.

For example, supposed it said “renter agrees not to permit his or her spouse to drive the car”. This implies the renter has a spouse. But one is not violating it if one does not have a spouse. It simply becomes inapplicable if its implication is false. The same is so here — the “prohibition” is inapplicable if it fails to extend permission in circumstances where such permission is not required.

As for the only rational understanding of “no other drivers permitted”, I submit that the most rational understanding is that it means what it says — Enterprise does not extend permission to other drivers. Others may not drive cars in circumstances where Enterprise’s permission would be required because such permission is not extended.

The difference is key in cases just like this one, where the question is not whether he exceeded his authorization under the rental agreement but whether he *violated* it. Yes, he did something the rental agreement does not extend permission to do, but it does not follow that he violated the agreement.

There is a subtle but tremendously important difference between agreeing that something is prohibited and agreeing that something is not permitted. Doing something that is prohibited violates an agreement. Doing something that is not permitted violates the agreement only if done in circumstances where such permission would be required.

8 EB 10.29.09 at 5:22 pm

To those debating the use of ‘not permitted’ as opposed to ‘prohibited’ in the rental agreement, I think that ‘not permitted’ was chosen because there are many instances in which a rental company will permit additional drivers. An additional driver might be required to show a valid drivers license, be of as certain age, and the renter might be charged an extra fee for additional drivers being ‘permitted’. Therefore, the entity granting permission for another person to drive the rental vehicle is the rental company, not the renter. If the renter opted not to pay a fee for an additional driver, or comply with the requirements that an additional driver provide documents such as a valid driver’s license, having an additional driver would then violate the rental contract regardless of which wording was used.

9 David Schwartz 10.30.09 at 4:52 am

EB: The insurance agreement is specific that it only applies if the rental contract is violated. Doing something without permission does not violate the agreement that fails to extend permission, even if it explicitly fails to do so.

Suppose I sell you my car. I have a clause in the agreement, “taking the items in the trunk is not permitted by this agreement”. If you take the items from the trunk, did you violate that agreement?

Think about it, if you say “yes”, what if I sold you items in the trunk in a separate agreement? Wouldn’t it still violate the original agreement to take the items since nothing about that original agreement or what you did changed? And isn’t that obviously absurd?

Doing something an agreement fails to extend permission for does not violate that agreement.

10 David Schwartz 10.30.09 at 5:09 am

Here’s a little thought experiment for the “not permitted = prohibited” crowd. Suppose the rental agreement had stated that any modifications to the agreement must be in writing. And suppose the renter had obtained verbal permission by telephone to allow an additional driver.

If the rental agreement said “prohibited”, a strong case can be made that he still violated the rental agreement. The purported permission can’t modify the prohibition in the contract.

But if it says “no X permitted”, the renter has a strong argument that the agreement has not been modified. It originally did not permit him to let the other driver drive, and it still does not. But his verbal permission does, and it does not modify the original agreement in any way.

Still think “not permitted” = “prohibited”?

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