This blog, written by Thomas E. Rutledge, focuses primarily on business entity law in Kentucky. Postings on contract law, contractual and statutory construction, and the entity law of other jurisdictions appear as well. There may as well be some random discussions of classical, medieval and renaissance history.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Court of Appeal Affirms Jury Verdict of No Apparent Agency
Appeal Affirms Jury Verdict of No Apparent Agency
recent decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed a determination by a jury that
no apparent agency existed. Jones v. Topf,
No. 2012-CA-002007-MR (Ky. App. Dec. 5, 2014).
Marika Jones purchased a multiunit residential property in
Louisville that required refurbishing. On May 28, 2008, Jones entered into an
agreement with Willie Hill, a licensed electrician, to perform the electrical
work that needed to be done as part of the rehabilitation. In connection there
with, Jones advanced to Hill a portion of the purchase price. Although there
was dispute as to when it was conveyed to Jones, Hill advised her that while he
was a licensed electrician, he is not as well an electrical contractor, and only
a licensed contractor has the capacity to pull a permit to perform electrical
work. Ultimately, at Hill’s request, Joel Topf, who does business as Topf
Ceramic Tile and Electric, pulled the permit on behalf on Jones/Hill.
Jones was unhappy with the speed and quality of Hill’s work,
and terminated the agreement. Thereafter, Topf withdrew the permit. Ultimately,
Jones brought suit against both Hill and Topf As to Topf, she sought to hold
him liable for Hill’s breach of contract under an apparent agency /respondeat
Topf testified that Hill was not his employee and that he
pulled the permit as a favor; that testimony was corroborated by Hill. The
claim under respondeat superior/apparent agency went to trial, which held in
favor of Topf. From that determination Jones appealed.
The jury instruction required a finding for the Topf unless
Jones was able to show that Hill was acting on behalf of Topf at the time the
contract for the work was signed. Jones argued that the law does not require
that the apparent agency have existed at the time the contract was entered
into, but may arise at any time during the duration of its performance.
Jones argues that the law places no requirement upon the party
asserting an apparent-agency theory to prove the existence of the relationship
at any specific time. Instead, Jones maintains all that is required is that the
harmed party justifiably rely upon the appearance that one causing the harm is
the apparent or ostensible agent of the alleged principle (sic) at some point during the period in which the party is harmed.
Slip op at 8-9.
The Court of Appeals rejected this suggestion. Rather, it
emphasized that the focus must be upon the relationship at the time the contract
was entered into.