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Cangemi v. Commonwealth

November 10, 2010

PAUL DANTE CANGEMI
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cohn Jubelirer

Argued: September 16, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE RENÉE COHN JUBELIRER, Judge, HONORABLE MARY HANNAH LEAVITT, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge, HONORABLE JOHNNY J. BUTLER, Judge.

OPINION

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Driver Licensing (DOT) appeals from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County (trial court), sustaining Paul Dante Cangemi's (Owner) appeal from the three-month suspension of his driving privileges by DOT for permitting his vehicle to be driven without financial responsibility coverage.

On July 2, 2008, Owner pled guilty and was convicted of violating Section 1786(f) of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), 75 Pa. C.S. § 1786(f), for permitting his vehicle to be operated without the required financial responsibility coverage. (Electronical[ly] Transmitted Conviction Report, Ex. C-1, Item 2, R.R. at 45a.) As a result, DOT notified Owner by letter dated August 1, 2008 that, pursuant to Section 1786(d) of the MVFRL, 75 Pa. C.S. § 1786(d), Owner's operating privileges would be suspended effective September 5, 2008. (Letter from DOT to Owner (August 1, 2008) at 1, Ex. C-1, Item 1, R.R. at 42a.) On August 26, 2008, Owner filed an appeal to the trial court, which held a de novo hearing.

Based on the testimony presented, the trial court found that, on May 21, 2008, Scott Humphrey (Humphrey), who was employed by Owner at Suburban Chimney Company (Company), asked Owner if he could borrow a Company truck and Owner agreed. (Trial Ct. Op. at 2; Hr'g Tr. at 5, 8, R.R. at 20a, 23a.) All Company trucks are owned by Owner. (Hr'g Tr. at 5, R.R. at 20a.) At the time of Humphrey's request, Owner owned approximately 10 trucks, three of which were uninsured. (Trial Ct. Op. at 2; Hr'g Tr. at 5, R.R. at 20a.) One of the three uninsured trucks, a Ford Ranger, was parked inside the fenced lot where the Company vehicles were located. (Hr'g Tr. at 5-6, R.R. at 20a-21a.) When Humphrey had previously borrowed a truck from Owner, Humphrey borrowed a white utility truck and had not borrowed the Ford Ranger. (Trial Ct. Op. at 2; Hr'g Tr. at 20, R.R. at 35a.) However, on May 21, 2008, the Ford Ranger was the only vehicle available and Humphrey did not know that the Ford Ranger was no longer insured. (Trial Ct. Op. at 2; Hr'g Tr. at 6, 12, 13, R.R. at 21a, 27a, 28a.) Owner kept all of the keys to all of the vehicles in the same lockbox, and did not distinguish the keys to uninsured vehicles in any way. (Trial Ct. Op. at 2; Hr'g Tr. at 8-9, R.R. at 23a-24a.) According to Owner, Humphrey tried to reach him by phone, but Owner was unavailable because he was attending a charitable event. (Hr'g Tr. at 10, R.R. at 25a.) Based on Owner's permission for Humphrey to "borrow a truck," Humphrey retrieved the keys to the Ford Ranger and drove it out of the fenced lot onto a highway.*fn1 (Hr'g Tr. at 10, 13, R.R. at 25a, 28a.)

To satisfy its burden of proving that Owner permitted the operation of an uninsured vehicle, DOT introduced Exhibit C, which included an "Electronical[ly] Transmitted Conviction Report" showing that Owner was criminally convicted of permitting the Ford Ranger to be driven without financial responsibility coverage. (Ex. C-1, Item 2, R.R. at 45a.) However, the trial court held that DOT "failed to establish a prima facie case." (Trial Ct. Op. at 4.) The trial court concluded that, "Humphrey's use of the vehicle was nonpermissive" because the trial court made the credibility determination that Owner believed that Humphrey was going to take the same white utility truck as he always had. (Trial Ct. Op. at 4.) Accordingly, the trial court sustained Owner's appeal and rescinded his suspension. (Trial Ct. Order, R.R. at 58a.) This appeal by DOT followed.

On appeal,*fn2 DOT argues that the trial court erred as a matter of law when it held that Owner did not permit Humphrey to operate the Ford Ranger because Section 1786(d) does not require DOT to prove Owner's intent when he allowed Humphrey to borrow "a truck." We agree.

DOT suspended Owner's driving privileges for a period of three months, pursuant to Section 1786 of the MVFRL, which provides, in pertinent part:

§1786. Required financial responsibility

(a) General rule.- Every motor vehicle of the type required to be registered under this title which is operated or currently registered shall be covered by financial responsibility.

(d) Suspension of registration and operating privilege.-

(1) The Department of Transportation shall suspend the registration of a vehicle for a period of three months if it determines the required financial responsibility was not secured as required by this chapter and shall suspend the operating privileges of the owner or registrant for a period of three months if the department determines that the owner or registrant has operated or permitted the operation of the vehicle without the required financial responsibility.

(4) Where an owner or registrant's operating privilege has been suspended under this subsection, the owner or registrant shall have the same right of appeal under section 1550 (relating to judicial review) as provided for in cases of suspension for other reason. The court's scope of review in an appeal ...


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