Tuesday, October 10, 2006

South Carolina Court of Appeals issues opinion on "family purpose" doctrine

In Evans v. Stewart, Evans brought an action against Blake C. Stewart and Blake's mother, Cusack, seeking damages arising from an automobile accident caused by Stewart's negligence. Cusack was sued because under the family purpose doctrine, the head of a family who owns, furnishes, and maintains a vehicle for the general use and convenience of his family is liable for the negligence of a family member having general authority to operate the vehicle for such a purpose.

The trial court granted Cusack summary judgment, finding that the family purpose doctrine did not apply. The court of appeals affirmed. The Court noted that Stewart's deposition revealed that, while the truck was titled in Cusack's name, Stewart provided the bulk of the funds to purchase the vehicle, he paid for the maintenance of the vehicle, the truck was titled in his mother's name merely because Stewart was a minor at the time of purchase, and Stewart considered the truck to be his.

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