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A bailee may recover from a third person for the latter's wrongful injury to bailed property or disturbance of his possession thereof. Every bailee or person clothed with the exclusive right of possession has a temporary or qualified ownership in the property to the extent of enabling him to maintain actions in respect thereof against third persons, and he may sue for the protection of his own interest, or for the benefit of his bailor, or he may sue for both interests and recover full damages.
The owner left his car with the appellant garage for servicing. The garage's employee drove the car in the course of his employment and was involved in an accident with the driver. The garage paid the owner for the damage to the car. The garage then filed a subrogation action against the driver's insurer. The trial court dismissed the garage's action. The appellant garage challenged the decision of the trial court.
Was the appellant garage entitled to seek subrogation from the driver’s insurer?
On review, the court found that the garage was a bailee. Furthermore, the garage had a duty to return the owner's car in the same condition that it received it. Therefore, the garage had a duty to repair the owner's car. The court reasoned that the garage had a temporary ownership right to the car, and thus had a right to sue for its protection as well as the owner's protection. The court concluded that the garage was more than a mere volunteer and that it was entitled to seek subrogation from the insurer.