Elardo, Bragg, Appel & Rossi

Family Purpose Doctrine – Vicarious Liability

ALOSI V. HEWITT, 276 P.3d 518, 634 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 31 (APP. DIV. 1 05/03/2012). Motorcyclist injured in collision with automobile moved to amend complaint to include claims against owner of defendant’s corporate employer, under family purpose and agency theories. The trial court denied motion as to family agency theory, granted motion as to theory of respondeat superior, and granted employer’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff appealed. FAMILY PURPOSE HOLDING: The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed. The family purpose doctrine applies when there is, among other things, “a family with sufficient unity so that there is a head of the family.” Pesqueira v. Talbot, 7 Ariz. App. 476, 480, 441 P.2d 73, 77 (1968). The rationale of the doctrine does not support its application to married or unmarried couples because there is no “head” of the family in such circumstances. The Court also explained that the doctrine does not apply when an independent adult is driving a vehicle. VICARIOUS LIABILITY HOLDING: The Court next held that the trial court properly granted summary judgment to Hewitt on the vicarious liability claim. A principal is not liable for physical harm caused by an agent who is not a servant, unless the act which caused the harm was done in a manner directed or authorized by the principal. See Consol. Motors v. Ketcham, 49 Ariz. 295, 305, 66 P.2d 246, 250 (1937). If the agent is a servant, however, respondeat superior applies. In this case, Hewitt did not direct the manner in which Fuller transported the boy to school. Furthermore, Fuller was not Hewitt’s servant because she was employed by one of Hewitt’s companies, not Hewitt himself.