Geico General Insurance Co. v. Tibolla
An insurance company may not be required to defend or indemnify an operator who lacked permission to drive or a reasonable belief that he had permission to drive. Prior to Oct. 22, 2010, Michael Wilcox, who owned a Toyota Camry, permitted his brother, Stephen Sabato, to use the Toyota as his own. On October 21 and 22, Sabato and his new friend, Daniel Tibolla, went to parties, purchased beer and drank alcohol, before returning to Sabato's house to sleep. On October 22, Tibolla allegedly was driving the Toyota on Interstate 84 and rear-ended a police cruiser at approximately 6:15 a.m. Tibolla claimed that Sabato permitted Tibolla to drive. Sabato denied that claim. The plaintiff insurance company, which issued an insurance policy to Tibolla's parents, requested a declaratory judgment that the plaintiff is not required to defend or to indemnify Daniel Tibolla, or Tibolla's parent, in connection with the October 2010 motor-vehicle accident. Tibolla would be insured, if he operated the Toyota with permission, or if he reasonably believed that he had permission to operate the Toyota. The court did not credit Tibolla's statement under oath. First, he alleged that Sabato said at 1 or 2 a.m. on October 22, when Sabato was in his bedroom, "[the keys] are going to be in the ignition if you need to go somewhere." Later, he claimed that when he first arrived at Sabato's house on October 22, Sabato said, "Yo, here's the keys." Allegedly, Sabato and Tibolla had just met and did not know each other well. The court credited Sabato's claim that he drove when they went to parties and that he did not provide Tibolla permission to drive. The court found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Tibolla did not possess permission to operate the Toyota and also that Tibolla did not reasonably believe that he had permission to drive. As a result, the plaintiff insurance company is not required to defend and indemnify Daniel Tibolla or Tibolla's parents.