As New York Civil Law posted in May 2005, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified five questions to the New York Court of Appeals regarding the interplay between the permissive user statute pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law sec. 388(1) and summary judgment (see prior post for the certified questions).
The New York Court of Appeals recently answered some of those certified questions in Country Wide Ins. Co. v. National Railroad Passenger Corp. The decision is an important one for two distinct reasons. First, the Court explained that even where there is evidence of uncontradicted statements by the driver and owner of the vehicle that the driver did not have permission to use the subject automobile, that evidence might not necessarily warrant summary judgment in favor of the owner. The Court's discussion of the applicable case law makes this decision important to read carefully to understand the interplay between sec. 388(1) and summary judgment.
The second important part of this decision is the Court's explanation of its certification process. The points are subtle, yet helpful to understand the fine line that certified questions walk between decisions and advisory opinions. As we know, the Court cannot render advisory opinions and thus the Court's certification rules require that the certified questions be determinative on the matter before the Second Circuit. The Court's explanation as to why it did not answer certain certified questions shows how the Court protects its jurisdiction.
Also check out footnote four for the Court's comment about its recognition that its role is not to apply Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.