Close X

Torts -- Family Purpose Doctrine and Agency Principles

Alosi v. Hewitt, 634 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 31 (App. Div. I, May 3, 2012) (J. Swan)

FAMILY PURPOSE DOCTRINE NOT APPLICABLE TO ALLEGED “HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD'S” GIRLFRIEND AND GENERAL AGENCY PRINCIPLES DO NOT CREATE LIABILITY WHERE AGENT IS NOT THE PRINCIPAL'S EMPLOYEE AND PRINCIPAL DOES NOT CONTROL AGENT'S MANNER OF DRIVING

Audrey Fuller ran a stop sign and struck the plaintiff on his motorcycle. He sued Fuller and William Hewitt. Hewitt was sued because he owned the company that employed and provided Fuller the car and because he was her boyfriend. At the time of the accident Fuller was taking a young boy and “house guest” of Hewitt's to school. She also intended to deliver to a courier a letter from Hewitt to another of his businesses. She had spent the night at Hewitt's house the night before. She stayed there and in Hewitt's Denver home often, where among other things she performed housework and bought groceries. The plaintiff sued Hewitt under the family purpose doctrine and based upon his ownership of the business that employed Fuller. Hewitt was granted summary judgment and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed.

After reviewing the long history of the family purpose doctrine the court found that the sole purpose of the doctrine is to provide financial responsibility for the negligent driving of less experienced young people who have been provided a car by their parents and to give parents an incentive to assure their children drive carefully. The court saw no reason to expand this doctrine to cover the adult “live-in” girlfriend of a defendant.

Finally, the court found that general agency principles did not create liability against Hewitt. “A principal is not responsible for physical harm caused by the negligent conduct of an agent who is not a servant, even though the latter is engaged in the performance of the principal's business, unless the act which caused the harm was done in a manner directed or authorized by the principal.” Here the undisputed facts established that Fuller was a servant/employee of one of Hewitt's companies but not of Hewitt personally. To the extent Fuller may have been Hewitt's agent there was no evidence that Hewitt directed the manner of Fuller's driving. Judgment for Hewitt affirmed.

Kinerk, Schmidt & Sethi, PLLC

Kinerk-logo

Kinerk, Schmidt & Sethi, PLLC is one of the most experienced, successful personal injury law firms in the Tucson area. Established in 1995, our firm has a long history of success, as seen in our many victories.

Contact Us Today

Kss2

Set up a free case evaluation with our firm today to get answers to all of your personal injury questions. Our Tucson personal injury attorneys truly care for each client and will provide the personal care and attention that you need during this difficult and painful time of your life, which is only part of what sets us apart.