Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Court of Appeal Affirms Jury Verdict of No Apparent Agency

Court of Appeal Affirms Jury Verdict of No Apparent Agency


In a 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 superior theory.

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.


No comments:

Post a Comment