The Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion addressing the applicability of the family purpose doctrine in a Georgia car accident lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, the accident occurred in 2016 when a minor was driving a car with her father as a passenger. As the teenager approached an intersection and began to turn left, the defendant was approaching the same intersection and continued straight into the plaintiff’s car. The defendant struck the passenger side of the plaintiff’s car resulting in the father’s death.
The father’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant. In response, the defendant asserted a counterclaim for damages, arguing that the daughter’s negligence caused the accident. Additionally, the defendant evoked Georgia’s family purpose doctrine as an affirmative defense.
Georgia’s family purpose doctrine allows a car accident victim to hold the owner of the at-fault vehicle liable for damages if they can establish certain factors. Under the theory, the party evoking this doctrine must be able to prove that:
- The defendant owned or had control of the vehicle involved in the accident;
- The negligent driver was a qualifying family member living in the household of the owner;
- The owner allowed the driver to use the car for “pleasure, comfort or convenience” of that family member;
- The vehicle was being driven with the consent of the owner and for a “family purpose” when the accident occurred, and;
- The circumstances amounted to an agency relationship between the owner and the qualifying family member.