Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals gave an opinion regarding the applicability of the family purpose doctrine in Georgia. It was in reference to a car accident lawsuit. The specific accident occurred in 2016 when a minor was the driver of a vehicle where the father was a passenger. The minor was in an intersection and turned left when an approaching car continued straight into the minor’s car. The other car struck the passenger side of the minor’s car and resulted in the father’s death. The widow filed a wrongful death suit, and the defendant maintained a counterclaim stating the accident was the fault of the daughter. The defendant also imposed Georgia’s family purpose doctrine as a defense in this lawsuit.
According to Georgia’s family purpose doctrine, the accident victim can hold the owner of the car who caused the accident liable for damages. But, certain factors must be proven. Here’s a list of those factors:
- The negligent driver was a family member living in the household of the owner
- The defendant had control of his own vehicle
- The owner let the driver use the car for the convenience or pleasure of that family member
- The driver had the consent of the owner for “family purpose” at the time of the accident
- An agency relationship exists between the owner and the family member
In this particular case, the defendant argued that the family purpose doctrine did apply. The father who owned the car let his daughter use the car with permission and as a family member of his household. In addition, the vehicle was a family purpose car and that establishes agency. Did the family doctrine apply in this case?
In the partial summary judgment, it was argued that the family purpose doctrine is a plaintiff’s rule and cannot be put on a third party for recovery of damages. The court analyzed the issue and took into account Georgia’s law OGCA 51-2-2. This decision was that this law does not put the liability on parents based on the parent-child relationship. The court made it clear that the doctrine is intended to permit the plaintiff to recover from a negligent child’s parent with certain conditions. In the end, the third party was not permitted to use the family doctrine as a defense, and the widow prevailed.
If you or a loved one has incurred injuries or died in a car accident in Georgia, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. An experienced personal injury lawyer will understand the complexities of the family doctrine and assist you in recovering compensation for yourself and your loved ones. Keep in mind that the law is complex and an experienced personal injury lawyer can explain the law to you so that you understand it. Our experienced personal injury lawyer will also act as your advocate and fight for your rights for the best outcome.