Who is an Agent? | Brian JM Quinn | February 23, 2013

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Who is an Agent?

by Brian JM Quinn Show/Hide

Often the question of who is an agent is contentious. This chapter focuses on the sources of agency, including actual and apparent agency. In addition to the sources of agency is the question of the limits of an agent's authority. It is important to recognize that although there are different sources of authority of agents, that the source of an agent's authority does not matter. In the end, regardless of the source, once a person is empowered with authority, a court will consider that person an agent.

This section examines the role of agency in the franchise form. The franchise business is a common form of business organization. It may be a surprise to learn, but with respect to the franchisee/franchisor, agency plays a critically important role. Indeed, lawyers whose practice involves franchise businesses often become experts in agency law.

This section also spends time on the difference between employees and independent contractors. As you will see, employees are obviously agents. But a more common question relates to independent contractors. Are they agents? And, if so, to what extent can they be considered agents?

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  1. 3 Show/Hide More Harmon v. State
    Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
    Notes:
    In Harmon we consider whether an agent has authority and the sources of authority, both actual and apparent.
  2. 4 Show/Hide More Smith v. Hansen Hansen & Johnson
    Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
    Agents acting without authorization and apparent agency.
    Notes:
    Sometime agents act without authority. What are the limits of a principal's liability for acts done by an agent without authority? Who is or should bear the consequences of such an agent's acts? What are the incentives created by the rule laid out by courts and the restatement?
  3. 5 Show/Hide More A. Gay Jenson Farms Co. v. Cargill Inc.
    Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
    Notes:
    When do creditors, ostensibly third parties at arm's length, cross the line and become principals?
  4. 6 Show/Hide More Agency and the Franchise
    Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
    Notes:
    The franchise is a common business organization. From fast food to hotels, the franchise structure is pervasive throughout our economy. The following cases help us think about the nature of the franchise/franchisee relationship. Is it an agency relationship? Or, is it something else?
    1. 6.2 Show/Hide More Allen v. CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL
      Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn

      More on the question of agency in the context of franchise liability.

      Question for discussion: what is the plaintiff's best legal theory based on apparent authority. Is the court correct in its conclusion with respect to that theory? Yes or no?

  5. 7 Show/Hide More Independent Contractors v Employees
    Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
    Principals will often hire “independent contractors” to undertake work on their behalf. What is the distinction between independent contractors and employees? Are independent contractors agents? And, if so what are the limits of their authority?
    1. 7.2 Show/Hide More Kane Furniture Corp. v. Miranda
      Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
      Notes:
      This case further examines the distinction between independent contractors and agents. In addition, this case raises the question of the limits of a principal's liability for an employee and when an employee might be acting within the scope of their employment.
    2. 7.3 Show/Hide More Millsap v. Federal Express Corp.
      Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
      In modern business organizations, much work is “outsourced” to independent contractors. Are independent contractors agents? If so, are principals liable for the actions of independent contractors?
      Notes:
      In modern business organizations, much work is “outsourced” to independent contractors. Are independent contractors agents? If so, are principals liable for the actions of independent contractors?
  6. 8 Show/Hide More Intentional Torts of Agents
    Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
    Sometimes agents commit intentional torts against third parties. These torts are often against the explicit instructions of the principal. When, if ever, are principals liable for these intentional torts?
    1. 8.1 Show/Hide More Manning v. Grimsley
      Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
      Intentional Torts of Agents and the scope of employment
    2. 8.2 Show/Hide More Burlington Industries Inc. v. Ellerth
      Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
      Are principals liable for the torts of their agents who are acting in the scope of their employment?
    3. 8.3 Show/Hide More Arguello v. Conoco Inc.
      Original Creator: Brian JM Quinn
      Summary of franchise issues as well as the scope of the employment question.
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January 18, 2014

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