"NO OTHER DRIVER PERMITTED" is an all caps line on the first page of a four-page Enterprise Leasing car rental agreement.
Seems clear-cut. Especially in caps. No wiggle room there. Not the slightest trace of ambiguity.
You rent the car, you drive the car. You, only you, and nobody else but you.
You wouldn't think a person would have to go to court to clear that up – much less appeal to a higher court to make sure the lower court correctly interpreted the meaning of a two-letter, single-syllable word.
If you thought that, you'd be wrong, unfortunately. In the post-Clinton era the meaning of "no" is just as perplexing as the meaning of "is."
At least, it was for Markeith Reynolds and his lawyer, Matthew Marlen of Belleville.
Marlen was last seen here trying to blame Starbucks for serving a scalding cup of coffee. It indirectly ruined a SIUE student's academic career, he sought (unsuccessfully) to explain.
In this Marlen-manufactured drama, Reynolds was struck from behind back while driving a car rented from Enterprise by one Glenda Emerson. Reynolds claimed coverage under the insurance policy that Emerson purchased at the time of rental. The policy covered all passengers, barring violation of the rental agreement.
That's the rental agreement that said "NO OTHER DRIVER PERMITTED."
Enterprise denied his claim and Reynolds filed suit claiming ambiguity in the terms of the rental and insurance agreements. When Madison County Associate Judge Ralph Mendelsohn dismissed his suit, Reynolds appealed.
Last month, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Mount Vernon affirmed Mendelsohn's decision. "The plaintiff has failed to make a convincing argument that the provisions and the exclusions in the rental agreement and the personal accident insurance policy are ambiguous, indefinite, or misleading in any of the ways he suggested," Justice James Donovan wrote.
It's worth noting that Markeith Reynolds has a history of linguistic confusion. Perhaps he didn't understand what "unlawful" meant prior to his 2007 conviction for "unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver."
'Unlawful'? Is that like 'illegal,' man? Whoa, dude, I had no idea!