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Adams v. Presnell

Court of Appeals of Oregon

June 28, 2017

Shawnee ADAMS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Holly PRESNELL, as guardian ad litem for the minor Zachary David Adams, Defendant-Respondent.

          Argued and submitted February 23, 2016

         Marion County Circuit Court 14C10902 Dennis J. Graves, Judge.

          Brady Mertz argued the cause and fled the briefs for appellant.

          Melissa J. Ward argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief were Joseph W. Much and Spooner & Much, P. C .

          Bridget Donegan and Larkins Vacura LLP fled the brief amicus curiae for Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.

          Before Sercombe, Presiding Judge, and Tookey, Judge, and DeHoog, Judge.

         Case Summary: Plaintiff appeals a judgment in favor of defendant, assigning error to the grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's negligence claim. Plaintiff was injured in a single-car accident while defendant, her minor son, was driving. Plaintiff fled a claim against defendant in which she alleged that she was injured as a result of his negligent driving. Defendant fled a motion for summary judgment, contending that plaintiff's claim was barred by the family purpose doctrine, which, under certain circumstances, imputes vicarious liability to the owner of a car maintained for a "family purpose" for the negligence of family-member drivers. The trial court agreed with defendant and granted the motion. On appeal, plaintiff argues that the family purpose doctrine does not bar an injured owner-passenger from recovering for his or her own injuries caused by the negligence of a family-member driver. Held: As a matter of law, the negligence of a family-member driver is not imputed to an owner-passenger [286 Or. 391] under the family purpose doctrine. Accordingly, that doctrine does not bar plaintiff's action against defendant, and the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         Reversed and remanded.

         [286 Or. 392]

          SERCOMBE, P. J.

         Plaintiff appeals a judgment in favor of defendant, assigning error to the trial court's grant of defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's negligence claim. Plaintiff was injured in a single-car accident while defendant, her minor son, was driving. Plaintiff filed a claim against defendant in which she alleged that she was injured as a result of his negligent driving. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that plaintiff's claim was barred by the family purpose doctrine, which, under certain circumstances, imposes vicarious liability on the owner of a car maintained for a "family purpose" for the negligence of family-member drivers. The trial court agreed with defendant and granted the motion.

         On appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court misapplied the family purpose doctrine. According to plaintiff, the doctrine exists to allow a third party to recover damages from the owner of a motor vehicle if the third party is injured due to the negligence of a member of the owner's family in operating the vehicle, not to bar the owner from recovering for his or her own injuries. Defendant responds that the family purpose doctrine imputes liability to the owner of a car, regardless of the circumstances. We agree with plaintiff and, therefore, reverse and remand.

         In reviewing a trial court's grant of a motion for summary judgment, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party "for the purpose of determining whether there is no genuine issue of material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Farnworth v. Rossetto, 285 Or.App. 10, 12, ___P.3d___ (2017).

         The relevant facts are few and undisputed. Plaintiff and defendant were in a single-car accident. At the time of the accident, defendant was a minor and had a learner's permit, allowing him to drive only if supervised by someone over the age of 21. See ORS 807.280(8). Plaintiff, defendant's mother, was a passenger in the car, ...


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