State ex rel. Schroath v. Condry

Decision Date10 September 1954
Docket NumberNo. 10664,10664
Citation139 W.Va. 827,83 S.E.2d 470
PartiesSTATE of West Virginia, ex rel. Alfred W. SCHROATH, et al., v. Joseph P. CONDRY, Commissioner of Motor Vehicles of West Virginia.
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Statutes relating to the same subject matter must be read and applied together, whether passed at the same or different times.

2. The ultimate and final effect of Chapter 126, Article 10, Section 1, Acts of the Legislature 1953, Regular Session; Chapter 129, Article 10, Sections 3 and 5, Acts of the Legislature 1951, Regular Session; Chapter 134, Article 1, Section 2, Acts of the Legislature 1947, Regular Session; Chapter 126, Article 2, Section 5 and Article 3, Section 3, Acts of the Legislature 1945, Regular Session; Chater 50, Article 2, Section 1 and Article 3, Section 1, Acts of the Legislature 1937, Regular Session, when read and applied together, is an attempt by legislative fiat, to make a motor vehicle used solely in private business a public carrier.

3. Statutes relating to the classification and licensing of motor vehicles may be valid in their general scope and outline, but invalid and unconstitutional when applied so as to make a privately owned and privately used motor vehicle a public carrier by legislative fiat, contrary to the facts.

4. The owner of a motor vehicle of passenger type used solely for private transportation, though leased by such owner to another person for compensation, is entitled to a Class A registration and license plate, and mandamus lies to compel the issuance of such registration card and plates.

Steptoe & Johnson, Oscar J. Andre, Eugene G. Eason, Clarksburg, for relators.

John G. Fox, Atty. Gen., T. D. Kauffelt, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

LOVINS, Judge.

Alfred W. Schroath, Frederick W. Schroath and James G. Curran, partners, trading and doing business under the name of Fleet Rental Company, hereinafter referred to as relators, seek a writ of mandamus to compel Joseph P. Condry, Commissioner of Motor Vehicles of West Virginia, hereinafter designated as Commissioner, to issue a Class A automobile registration and license plate for a certain automobile owned by the relators and leased to The Union National Bank of Claksburg. The Commissioner refused to issue a Class A automobile registration card and license plate on the ground that the relators are not entitled to such Class A registration card and license plate, but are entitled to a Class U registration card and license plate.

The issue in this case arises upon the following undisputed facts: Relators are residents of Harrison County, West Virginia, and are engaged in the business of leasing or renting new passenger automobiles and trucks for terms of one year or longer to individuals and business organizations for use of such motor vehicles in the business of the lessees. Secondhand motor vehicles are not rented. Rentals of these motor vehicles are payable monthly, in fixed amounts, regardless of the number of miles the vehicles are driven.

The relators do not offer to lease to the public generally and the general public has no right to demand that the relators enter into a rental agreement with any group or members of any group of the general public. The rental agreements are made after selection, solicitation and negotiation of, and with prospective lessees as in the case of ordinary contracts. No motor vehicles are leased to persons engaged in the transportation of persons or property either as common or contract carriers.

The relators allege that they are engaged in a competitive business, that they have no franchise to rent vehicles to any person, and that the business is private and is similar to the business of selling motor vehicles. The title to the motor vehicles owned by the relators is in their name. Prior to this time, Class A or B registration card and license plate for each rented vehicle have been issued in the name of the Fleet Rental Company.

The vehicles are equipped with accessories and lettering, according to the specifications of the lessee and when delivered to the lessee, the vehicle may be used by such lessee as its own property, except as hereinafter stated. While in operation, the complete control is in the lessee during the term of the lease. It may be driven at such times and to such places and for such distance as the lessee desires.

The relators have no control over the vehicle and the use thereof, except the prohibition against using it for an unlawful purpose; its use in transporting property or persons for hire. The right to repossess the vehicle, however, for violation of the rental agreement, is reserved. In the operation of the vehicle, the lessee is entitled to possession of the vehicle during the time of the agreement, provided the lessee complies with the provisions of the agreement.

According to the information of relators, each rented vehicle is driven by a qualified driver of the lessee. None of such drivers is an employee of, or has any relationship with, the relators. The driver receives his instruction as to the operation of the vehicle from the lessee who pays such driver his wages.

In some of the leases the relators do not agree to maintain and service the rented vehicles. Other leases may provide that the relators furnish gasoline, oil, garage facilities, washing, adjustments and repairs, or any one or more of such services provided for in the lease of the vehicle.

One of the relators negotiated a lease agreement with The Union National Bank of Clarksburg, West Virginia, hereinafter designated as the Bank. By that agreement, the relators agreed to furnish one motor vehicle to the Bank for its use in accordance with the terms of a written lease. The lease which is set forth in its entirety in the petition, provides in substance as follows: a Chevrolet automobile, described by motor number and serial number, was leased for two years, from February 8, 1954, until February 8, 1956, at a monthly rental of $124.20 per month, payable monthly.

The Bank agreed at the expiration of the lease to deliver the motor vehicle to the relator at the Bank's expense, in as good condition as said motor vehicle was in when received by the Bank, ordinary wear and tear excepted. In this lease, the Bank agreed to keep the motor vehicle in safe working condition and pay all taxes, fines, fees, operating costs and other expenses in connection with the leased vehicle; that the lessor may inspect it and thereafter the Bank should make all repairs found necessary on such inspection.

The relators agreed to provide a certificate of title and registration card and license plates in the name of the relators at the Bank's expense.

The Bank agreed to save the lessor harmless against all loss imposed by law resulting from the use and operation of the motor vehicle and 'arising out of any cause whatever while said motor vehicle is in the possession and control of Lessee, its agents, servants, employees or assignees or in the possession and control of any person with express or implied permission of Lessee.'

The Bank also agreed to provide, maintain and pay for insurance covering the motor vehicle in certain amounts unnecessary to specify. The Bank has the right to use the leased vehicle for any lawful purpose except the Bank agreed that it would 'not use nor permit said motor vehicle to be used for transportation for hire of property or passengers.'

Other provisions of the lease set forth that the relators did not contemplate sale of the vehicle, conditional or otherwise; that the lease agreement may be assigned by the relators to any person or persons, but that the Bank should not assign the agreement or voluntarily relinquish possession and control of the vehicle without written consent of the relators or their assignees. Another stipulation in the lease provided for repossession of the leased vehicle and cancellation of the agreement in the event of a violation of the agreement or failure to pay rentals.

Relators obtained a certificate of title as the owner of the motor vehicle leased to the Bank, in accordance with the applicable statutory provisions, and thereupon applied in writing to the Department of Motor Vehicles of West Virginia for a Class A registration card and license plate; tendered the correct amount of cash to pay the fees for Class A registration, exhibited their certificate of title and made full and correct answers to the questions necessary to obtain a Class A license card and plate.

The Commissioner denied the request for Class A registration card and plate for the leased automobile. He based his refusal on the provisions of the statute that a Class A registration card and license plate could not be issued under the existing statute, but that the relators should obtain a Class U registration card and license plate after they had obtained a certificate or permit as required by Chapter 108, Article 6, Section 6, Acts of the Legislature 1949, Regular Session. Michie's Code 1949, 24A-6-6.

The relators contend that the statute relied upon by the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles has no application to their business, since they are not engaged in the transportation of persons or property as a common or contract carrier, and that the vehicle rented by them to the Bank was not rented to a common or contract carrier, nor could such vehicle be lawfully used for those purposes by the Bank. Relators allege that they are deprived of their property without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article III, Section 10 of the Constitution of West Virginia and are deprived of equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and Article VI, Section 30 of the Constitution of West Virginia; that the refusal of the respondent to issue...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • Norfolk & W. Ry. Co. v. Field
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • December 3, 1957
    ...privately owned and privately used motor vehicle a public carrier by legislative fiat, contrary to the facts.' State ex rel. Schroath v. Condry, 139 W.Va. 827, 83 S.E.2d 470, 471. See Carter v. City of Bluefield, 132 W.Va. 881, 54 S.E.2d 747; Harbert v. County Court of Harrison County, 129 ......
  • Chesapeake & Potomac Tel. Co. of W. Va. v. City of Morgantown, 11017
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • March 3, 1959
    ...to the same subject matter must be read and applied together, whether passed at the same or different times.' Pt. 1 Syl., State ex rel., Schroath v. Condry, 139 W.Va. 827 5. 'When a municipal ordinance is opposed to the policy of the state in relation to the subject matter thereof and in co......
  • State ex rel. City of Wheeling v. Renick
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • October 18, 1960
    ...Pinson v. Varney, 142 W.Va. 105, 96 S.E.2d 72; State ex rel. Revercomb v. O'Brien, 141 W.Va. 662, 91 S.E.2d 865; State ex rel. Schroath v. Condry, 139 W.Va. 827, 83 S.E.2d 470; Vest v. Cobb, 138 W.Va. 660, 76 S.E.2d 885; Harmer v. Boggess, 137 W.Va. 590, 73 S.E.2d 264; State v. Epperly, 135......
  • Delardas v. Morgantown Water Commission, 12250A
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • July 17, 1964
    ...Pinson v. Varney, 142 W.Va. 105, 96 S.E.2d 72; State ex rel. Revercomb v. O'Brien, 141 W.Va. 662, 91 S.E.2d 865; State ex rel. Schroath v. Condry, 139 W.Va. 827, 83 S.E.2d 470; Vest v. Cobb, 138 W.Va. 660, 76 S.E.2d 885; State v. Epperly, 135 W.Va. 877, 65 S.E.2d 488; White v. Morton, 114 W......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT