Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hoover v. Sun Oil Company case brief

Hoover v. Sun Oil Company case brief summary
212 A.2d 214 (1965)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant oil company, a service station owner, filed a motion for summary judgment on plaintiff car owners' claim for fire damage to their car. The oil company claimed that the service station was managed by defendant operator, allegedly an independent contractor, and therefore the alleged negligence of the operator's employee could not result in liability as to the oil company. The car owners argued that the operator was an oil company agent.

CASE FACTS
The car owners sought damages as a result of a fire that started at the rear of their car while being filled with gasoline at the oil company's service station. The complaint alleged that the fire was caused by the negligence of the operator's employee. The oil company argued that the operator was an independent contractor and therefore the employee's negligence could not be attributed to the oil company. The car owners argued that the oil company could be liable because the operator acted as its agent.

DISCUSSION

  • The court granted the oil company's motion for summary judgment, holding the operator was an independent contractor under the undisputed facts. 
  • The lease contract and dealer's agreement failed to establish any relationship other than landlord-tenant and independent contractor. 
  • There was nothing in the individuals' conduct that was inconsistent with that relationship. 
  • While the oil company and the operator had a mutual interest in the sale of the oil company's products and the success of the operator's business, the oil company had no control over the day-to-day operation of the service station. 
  • Hence it could not be liable for the allegedly negligent acts of the operator's employee.

CONCLUSION
The court granted summary judgment in favor of the oil company on the car owners' action for damages caused by a fire that started while filling the gas tank at the oil company's service station.

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