Does the driver of a leased vehicle have title to sue after an accident where the leased vehicle is damaged and the driver incurs the cost of hiring a replacement vehicle? This issue was explored in the Sheriff Appeal Court decision of Robert McGarrigle v U K Insurance Ltd.

The Facts

Mr McGarrigle was a self-employed private hire driver. On the date of the accident, his vehicle was parked and unattended when the at-fault driver collided with his vehicle. The damage to his vehicle was so significant that his vehicle was deemed unroadworthy until it was repaired.

Mr McGarrigle's vehicle had been leased to him by a leasing company. At the time of the collision, the leasing company had no replacement vehicles available to lease to Mr McGarrigle while his vehicle was being repaired. In order to continue his work as a private hire driver, he obtained a replacement vehicle under a hire agreement. Mr McGarrigle sought to recover the cost of the hire from the at-fault driver's insurer. However, the insurer argued that Mr McGarrigle did not have title to sue (i.e. he was not entitled to make a claim) as he was not the owner of the damaged vehicle.

The insurer for the at-fault driver argued that Mr. McGarrigle had to demonstrate that there was a legal relationship between him and the at-fault driver which, in turn, allowed Mr McGarrigle to recover the hire charges. As Mr McGarrigle was not the owner of the damaged vehicle, they said there was no such legal relationship. The at-fault driver did not damage property belonging to Mr McGarrigle, and Mr McGarrigle's legal relationship with the owner of the damaged vehicle (the leasing company) did not give him title to sue.

After considering the limited case law on the subject, the Sheriff agreed with the insurer for the at-fault driver. He determined that there had to be a legal relationship between the parties to the court action, and found that no such relationship existed.

He therefore concluded that Mr. McGarrigle's contract with the leasing company did not give him title to sue the at-fault driver or his insurer for damages in relation to loss of use of the vehicle.


Mr McGarrigle appealed the decision to the Sheriff Appeal Court. The Appeal Court determined that to satisfy the test to establish title to sue - two legal questions required to be answered positively. These can be summarised as:

1. Does a legal relationship exist between the claimant and the defender which provides the claimant with some rights against the defender?

2. Is there a basis to say that the defender has denied or infringed that right?

Applying these questions to the facts of the case, the Sheriff Appeal Court concluded that there was a legal relationship between the parties. Mr McGarrigle had a right to use the vehicle by virtue of his contract with the leasing company. The at-fault driver owed Mr McGarrigle a legal duty to take reasonable care not to deprive him of that right (i.e. use of the vehicle) by damaging it. The at-fault driver then denied Mr McGarrigle his right to use the vehicle by colliding with it. The test was satisfied, By entering into a hire agreement for a replacement vehicle, Mr McGarrigle was taking steps to remedy this infringement. He suffered a loss as a result. Accordingly, he did have title to sue.


This decision provides useful direction to claimants and defenders on the question of when a court action may be competently brought against a wrong-doer for losses arising from damage to a third party's property.


Laura McMillan

Partner & Director of Advocacy