Young v. Beck, No. CV–10–0230–PR.

CourtSupreme Court of Arizona
Writing for the CourtOPINION
Citation251 P.3d 380,227 Ariz. 1,605 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 22
Docket NumberNo. CV–10–0230–PR.
Decision Date05 April 2011
PartiesAmy YOUNG, Plaintiff/Appellee,v.Kenneth L. BECK and Barbara Beck, husband and wife, Defendants/Appellants.

227 Ariz. 1
251 P.3d 380
605 Ariz.
Adv. Rep. 22

Amy YOUNG, Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
Kenneth L. BECK and Barbara Beck, husband and wife, Defendants/Appellants.

No. CV–10–0230–PR.

Supreme Court of Arizona, En Banc.

April 5, 2011.


[251 P.3d 382]

Beale Micheaels & Slack PC By K. Thomas Slack, Tracy Gromer, Phoenix, Attorney for Amy Young.Ehmann DeCiancio PLLC By Joel DeCiancio, Christopher Robbins, Tempe, and Diane M. Lucas PC By Diane M. Lucas, Michael S. Ferraro, Phoenix, Attorneys for Kenneth L. Beck and Barbara Beck.Humphrey & Petersen PC By Andrew J. Petersen, Tucson, Attorney for Amicus Curiae Arizona Association of Defense Counsel.Haralson Miller Pitt Feldman & McAnally PLC By Stanley G. Feldman, Tucson, and Gallagher & Kennedy P.A. By C. Lincoln Combs, Phoenix, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Arizona Association for Justice and Arizona Trial Lawyers Association.

OPINION
PELANDER, Justice.

¶ 1 We adopted the family purpose doctrine nearly a century ago in Benton v. Regeser, 20 Ariz. 273, 179 P. 966 (1919). In this case we address its continued validity and application. We consider whether the Legislature has statutorily abrogated the doctrine and, if not, whether this Court should abolish it. Finally, we consider whether the doctrine was properly applied in this case.

I.

¶ 2 The material facts are not in dispute. Kenneth and Barbara Beck furnished a sport utility vehicle to their seventeen-year-old son, Jason. He was the primary driver of that vehicle and used it for travel to and from school, church, and work. With his parents' permission, Jason could also drive the vehicle for social and recreational purposes. After Jason was involved in an accident while driving the vehicle, however, the Becks specifically instructed him not to “taxi” his friends or drive their girlfriends home.

¶ 3 About a month later, Jason asked to use the vehicle to drive to a friend's house after work. Jason's mother permitted him to do so, with the understanding that Jason would drive to his friend's house, spend the night there, and then drive home the next day. Jason did not request or receive permission to use the vehicle for any other purpose.

¶ 4 After going to his friend's house, however, Jason drove around with several friends as they threw eggs at houses and parked cars. Jason then drove his friend's girlfriend home, and while on his way to drop off another friend, collided with a vehicle driven by Amy Young, who was seriously injured.

¶ 5 Young sued Jason and also named the Becks as defendants, alleging they were liable for Jason's negligence under the family purpose doctrine. On cross-motions for summary judgment regarding the doctrine's applicability, the superior court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Young. The parties later entered into a “high-low” settlement, under which the Becks agreed to pay Young one of two specified damage amounts, depending on whether the summary judgment ruling was affirmed or reversed on appeal.

¶ 6 In the court of appeals, the Becks argued that the family purpose doctrine did not apply because Jason violated their restriction against “transporting of friends.” Young v. Beck, 224 Ariz. 408, 411 ¶ 11, 231 P.3d 940, 943 (App.2010). Alternatively, the Becks contended that the doctrine should be abolished. Id. at 413 ¶ 19, 231 P.3d at 945. The court of appeals rejected those arguments and affirmed the superior court's ruling, holding the Becks vicariously liable for Jason's negligence. Id. at 412–14 ¶¶ 15, 19, 22, 231 P.3d at 944–46.

¶ 7 We granted review because the continued vitality of the family purpose doctrine is of statewide importance. We have jurisdiction under

[251 P.3d 383]

Article 6, Section 5(3) of the Arizona Constitution and Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) section 12–120.24 (2003).

II.

¶ 8 The family purpose doctrine “subjects the owner of a [vehicle] to vicarious liability when the owner provides an automobile for the general use by members of the family ... and when the vehicle is so used by a family member.” Dan B. Dobbs, The Law of Torts § 340, at 935 (2001); see also Young, 224 Ariz. at 410 ¶ 8, 231 P.3d at 942 (“[Under the doctrine,] a head of household who furnishes or maintains a vehicle for the use, pleasure, and convenience of the family is liable for the negligence of family members who have the general authority to drive the vehicle while it is used for family purposes.”); Brown v. Stogsdill, 140 Ariz. 485, 487, 682 P.2d 1152, 1154 (App.1984) (same).

¶ 9 This Court adopted the doctrine in Benton, which upheld a judgment holding a parent vicariously liable for his minor son's negligent driving. Finding the doctrine supported by “sound reason” and “the great weight of authority,” we framed the rule as follows:

[A parent] who furnishes an automobile for the pleasure and convenience of the members of his family makes the use of the machine for the above purposes his affair or business, and ... any member of the family driving the machine with the [parent's] consent, either express or implied, is the [parent's] agent.

Benton, 20 Ariz. at 278, 179 P. at 968.
III.

¶ 10 Arizona courts have applied the family purpose doctrine in various contexts in the nine decades since Benton. See A.R.S. § 1–201 (stating, with certain qualifications, “[t]he common law ... is adopted and shall be the rule of decision in all courts of this state”). The Becks argue, however, that the Legislature abrogated the doctrine by amending the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (“UCATA”), A.R.S. § 12–2506, in 1987. See 1987 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 1, § 2 (1st Reg.Sess.). As amended, UCATA abolishes joint and several liability in most circumstances and establishes a system of comparative fault, making “each tortfeasor responsible for paying his or her percentage of fault and no more.State Farm Ins. Cos. v. Premier Manufactured Sys., Inc., 217 Ariz. 222, 225 ¶ 12, 172 P.3d 410, 413 (2007) (quoting Dietz v. Gen. Elec. Co., 169 Ariz. 505, 510, 821 P.2d 166, 171 (1991)). Section 12–2506(A) provides as follows:

In an action for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death, the liability of each defendant for damages is several only and is not joint, except as otherwise provided in this section.

¶ 11 Section 12–2506(D) sets forth three exceptions to UCATA's general rule of several-only liability:

The liability of each defendant is several only and is not joint, except that a party is responsible for the fault of another person, or for payment of the proportionate share of another person, if any of the following applies:

1. Both the party and the other person were acting in concert.

2. The other person was acting as an agent or servant of the party.

3. The party's liability for the fault of another person arises out of a duty created by the federal employers' liability act, 45 United States Code § 51.

¶ 12 Citing § 12–2506(D)(2), the Becks argue that “the family purpose doctrine can survive under UCATA only if family members are agents or servants of the head of the family,” and “Jason was not the agent, employee, or servant of his parents.” They contend that, although Benton initially based the doctrine on an agency concept, Arizona courts have since repudiated the doctrine's agency foundation.

¶ 13 We generally do not find that a statute changes common law unless “the legislature ... clearly and plainly manifest[s] an intent” to have the statute do so. Wyatt v. Wehmueller, 167 Ariz. 281, 284, 806 P.2d 870, 873 (1991); see also Pleak v. Entrada Prop. Owners' Ass'n, 207 Ariz. 418, 422 ¶ 12, 87 P.3d 831, 835 (2004) (“Absent a clear manifestation of legislative intent to abrogate the

[251 P.3d 384]

common law, we interpret statutes with every intendment in favor of consistency with the common law.”) (quotation omitted). This approach “encourages legislators to avoid leaving something as important as the existence or nonexistence of common-law rights to inference or implication.” Hayes v. Cont'l Ins. Co., 178 Ariz. 264, 274, 872 P.2d 668, 678 (1994).

¶ 14 Our court of appeals has often noted that the family purpose doctrine departs from traditional agency law.1 See Young, 224 Ariz. at 411 ¶ 12, 231 P.3d at 943 (“The doctrine has never purported to rely on a true agency relationship.”); Jacobson v. Superior Court (Steinhoff ), 154 Ariz. 430, 431, 743 P.2d 410, 411 (App.1987) (observing that the doctrine's “insecure[ ]” grounding “in agency principles ... is the purest of fictions”); Pesqueira v. Talbot, 7 Ariz.App. 476, 479, 441 P.2d 73, 76 (App.1968) (noting “the agency for pleasure precepts of the family purpose doctrine do not square with established principles of agency law”) (quotation omitted).

¶ 15 But when we adopted the doctrine in Benton, we did so on the premise that “any member of the family driving the machine with the father's consent, either express or implied, is the father's agent,” and we held that “the minor son was the agent of his father in driving the [family vehicle] at the time of the accident.” 20 Ariz. at 278–79, 179 P. at 968. Similarly, in Mortensen v. Knight, we noted that “the family purpose doctrine is the settled law of this jurisdiction” and that “[a]gency, not ownership, is the test of liability.” 81 Ariz. 325, 332, 333, 305 P.2d 463, 468 (1956).

¶ 16 In view of this history and the express exception in § 12–2506(D)(2) for “agent or servant” relationships, we cannot conclude that the Legislature intended to abolish the family purpose doctrine when it amended UCATA in 1987, abolishing joint and several liability. Certainly nothing in UCATA manifestly indicates such a legislative intent. Nor is it clear that § 12–2506(D) prescribes an exclusive list of situations in which vicarious liability (as contrasted with joint and several liability) may be imposed.

¶ 17 In Wiggs v. City of Phoenix, we noted that “[j]oint liability and vicarious liability are related but separate doctrines,” and that “[t]he joint liability that was abolished by A.R.S. § 12–2506[ ] was...

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7 practice notes
  • Kayer v. Ryan, No. 09-99027
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 18, 2019
    ...of the prior decisions have ceased to exist or the prior decision was clearly erroneous or manifestly wrong." See also Young v. Beck , 227 Ariz. 1, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011) ("[S]tare decisis commands that ‘precedents of the court should not be lightly overruled,’ and mere disagreement with ......
  • McKinney v. Ryan, No. 09–99018.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • December 29, 2015
    ...Court consistently articulated and applied its causal nexus test, in accordance with its strong view of stare decisis. See Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011)("[S]tare decisis commands that 'precedents of the court should not be lightly overruled,' and mere disagreement wit......
  • Robertson v. Alling, No. 2 CA–CV 2013–0148.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • August 5, 2014
    ...court interpreted the rule to include this requirement. We only overturn long-standing precedent for compelling reasons. Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1, ¶ 22, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011). Even though the burden is lower with regard to court rules, see Wells v. Fell, 231 Ariz. 525, ¶ 11, 297 P.3d 9......
  • Alosi v. Hewitt, No. 1 CA–CV 11–0004.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • May 3, 2012
    ...applied to impose vicarious liability merely because a permissive user of a car is “financially irresponsible.” ¶ 20 In Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1, 251 P.3d 380 (2011), the most recent Arizona case concerning the doctrine, our supreme court reaffirmed the doctrine's vitality and recapped it......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Kayer v. Ryan, No. 09-99027
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 18, 2019
    ...of the prior decisions have ceased to exist or the prior decision was clearly erroneous or manifestly wrong." See also Young v. Beck , 227 Ariz. 1, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011) ("[S]tare decisis commands that ‘precedents of the court should not be lightly overruled,’ and mere disagreement with ......
  • McKinney v. Ryan, No. 09–99018.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • December 29, 2015
    ...Court consistently articulated and applied its causal nexus test, in accordance with its strong view of stare decisis. See Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011)("[S]tare decisis commands that 'precedents of the court should not be lightly overruled,' and mere disagreement wit......
  • Robertson v. Alling, No. 2 CA–CV 2013–0148.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • August 5, 2014
    ...court interpreted the rule to include this requirement. We only overturn long-standing precedent for compelling reasons. Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1, ¶ 22, 251 P.3d 380, 385 (2011). Even though the burden is lower with regard to court rules, see Wells v. Fell, 231 Ariz. 525, ¶ 11, 297 P.3d 9......
  • Alosi v. Hewitt, No. 1 CA–CV 11–0004.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • May 3, 2012
    ...applied to impose vicarious liability merely because a permissive user of a car is “financially irresponsible.” ¶ 20 In Young v. Beck, 227 Ariz. 1, 251 P.3d 380 (2011), the most recent Arizona case concerning the doctrine, our supreme court reaffirmed the doctrine's vitality and recapped it......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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