Can There Be Multiple Owners of a Car In California ?
In California State Automobile Assn. v. Foster (1993) 14 Cal. App. 4th 147, 151 17 Cal. Rptr. 2d 635, the court candidly noted that there may be multiple "owners" of a vehicle depending on the purpose of the definition.
For example, although ownership generally depends on legal title, the purchaser under a conditional sales contract may also be "an" owner although the seller who holds title also has that status. (See also Bohannon v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. (1985) 166 Cal. App. 3d 1172, 1175-1176 212 Cal. Rptr. 848.)
Many of the cases struggling with the concept of "owner" in the automobile context involve the vicarious tort liability of record "owners" who have actually sold or otherwise transferred the vehicles. (E.g. Brennan v. Gordon Ball, Inc. (1985) 163 Cal. App. 3d 832 210 Cal. Rptr. 32.)
As a "full-title" state, California's primary interest is in providing that anyone doing business with the purported owner of a motor vehicle may depend upon the state of the record title. (Suburban Motors, Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. (1990) 218 Cal. App. 3d 1354, 1361-1363 268 Cal. Rptr. 16.)