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Issaquah Law Group: Experienced Counsel; Client Focus

PHILOSOPHY: Formed in 2014, Issaquah Law Group is a law firm with one focus: providing businesses and insurers with high quality legal representation with the responsiveness of a smaller firm. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built upon clear and consistent communication. 

LITIGATION: We work closely with our clients to fully and accurately understand their goals, work collaboratively to formulate specific legal strategies, and execute the agreed plan of action utilizing methods most likely to result in the efficient and effective resolution of the matter. ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, product liability, commercial general liability, labor & employment, construction litigation, and catastrophic losses due to fire and explosion.

BUSINESS LAW: Rarely is the path from point A to point B a straight line, so our role in a business law practice is to find alternatives, devise workable strategies, and keep your business ideas, goals and objectives moving toward realization. ILG’s business attorneys help clients achieve their goals with respect to business formation, intellectual property, labor and employment, CAN-SPAM, copyright and trademark

COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

ILG Wins at Division I: Stealing your Parents' Car Does Not Impose Liability on Parents

Morgan v. Hebert

In here it first news, this opinion has not even hit the daily email. Why? Because it was emailed directly to Issaquah Law Group, as it is our appeal. Click on the case name to view a PDF of the opinion. Though unpublished (at present), it is our hope Division I will publish and help clarify the law of replevin.

So what happened? In short, Michael was estranged from his parents. He dropped by their house and took a car he had been explicitly told he could not use. He did not have a license. His parents tried to get the car back, calling him and telling him "Get the car home." They went looking for it. After a few days with no action, Michael was taking the car home when he got into an accident.

In the matter at hand, the Plaintiff abandoned the theory of Family Car Doctrine, and rightfully so. Michael did not live with his parents, and there is no question the car was not provided for general family use. 

Plaintiff then argued that the statement to get the car home created an agency relationship. Though not mentioned in the opinion, there is a long history in the law of replevin that actions to obtain recapture of wrongfully taken chattel are absolutely privileged. The court's language, though not mentioning the law of replevin, lays out the law quite nicely:

     Morgan argues here that, like in O'Brien, the alleged principal controlled (1) the time—in both cases, immediately; (2) the destination—in O'Brien the pickup place and here the parents' home; (3) the purpose—in O'Brien to pick the owner up and in this case to bring the parents' car home; and (4) the means—in both cases, driving.

     But, an agency relationship arises only when the principal agrees to the agent's conduct. See O'Brien, 122 Wn. App. at 285. And, unlike Baxter and O'Brien, the parents did not ask Michael to take possession of the car or to work on their behalf. Rather, the parents had made it clear to Michael that he was never to use their vehicle. Yet, he took the car without their knowledge or consent. And, Michael continued to possess the car, even after his parents demanded that he return it immediately. His defiance demonstrates the parents' complete lack of control.

     The law does not hold the vehicle owner liable for the negligent acts of an individual that has taken the vehicle unlawfully. See Kim v. Budget Rent A Car Sys., Inc., 143 Wn.2d 190, 202, 15 P.3d 1283 (2001) ("[W]e have held that the owner of an unsecured vehicle that is stolen and later involved in an accident is not liable for a third party's damages caused by the accident."). Michael had no more permission to possess the vehicle than the thief in the Kim case. None of Morgan's cited authority supports the principle that a person whose property is wrongfully taken can be held liable for the negligence of the person who wrongfully took the property.

     Nevertheless, Morgan portrays the parents' demands that Michael return the vehicle as establishing an agency agreement with Michael. According to Morgan, once the parents requested that Michael return the car, his possession and use became permissive, for his parents' benefit (the vehicle's return), and under their control. If not establishing control, Morgan argues that, at a minimum, a question of fact has been raised which precludes summary judgment.

     We hold that, as a matter of law, the bare demand that wrongfully taken property be returned, even when complied with, is insufficient to create a question of fact regarding the owner's right of control over the possessor, as is necessary to establish agency. The trial court did not err in granting the parents' motion for summary judgment.

This is a major win for the parents', as well as for anyone who asks for their property back. If you require appellate counsel, allow ILG to help. We offer a wide variety of services to insurers and self-insureds, including claims investigation, litigation, and appeals.

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