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Hoddeson v. Koos Bros. - 47 N.J. Super. 224, 135 A.2d 702 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 1957)

Rule:

Where a party seeks to impose liability upon an alleged principal on a contract made by an alleged agent, the party must assume the obligation of proving the agency relationship. It is not the burden of the alleged principal to disprove it.

Facts:

Mrs. Hoddeson, the plaintiff, bought furniture from Koos Bros., the defendant. During the purchase, however, Hoddeson failed to get a receipt for the cash payment she made for the items. After the assured date of delivery elapsed, she contacted Koos Bros. as to the whereabouts of her furniture. Koos Bros.’records failed to disclose any such sale to Mrs. Hoddeson nor any payment made by her, and Mrs. Hoddeson was also unable to identify the clerk who assisted her from Koos Bros.’ salesmen. Koos Bros. contended that the person who served Mrs. Hoddeson was an imposter deceitfully impersonating a salesman of Koos Bros. without its knowledge. Mrs. Hoddeson thereafter brought suit to recover the amount paid by her for the furniture, and obtained a judgment against Koos Bros. in reimbursement for her cash expenditure. Koos Bros. appealed contending that a reversal of the judgment was necessary as there was a deficit of evidence to support the conclusion that a relationship of master and servant existed between Koos Bros. and the man who served and received the money from Mrs. Hoddeson. 

Issue:

Was the evidence presented sufficient to support the conclusion that a relationship of master and servant existed between Koos Bros. and the alleged imposter who served and received money from Mrs. Hoddeson?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court noted that Mrs. Hoddeson prosecuted an action in assumpsit, alleging a privity of contract with the defendant through the relationship of agency between the latter and the salesman. However, the evidence presented to prove the alleged essential element of agency was inadequate in order to warrant a judgment against Koos Bros., as such, the Court reversed the lower court’s decision. The Court, however, allowed a new trial concluding that Mrs. Hoddeson should be entitled to reconstruct her complaint.

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