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Humble Oil & Ref. Co. v. Martin - 148 Tex. 175, 222 S.W.2d 995 (1949)

Rule:

The question of a master-servant relationship is ordinarily one of fact, and where there are items of evidence indicating a master-servant relationship, contrary evidence cannot be given conclusive effect. 

Facts:

Plaintiff George F. Martin filed lawsuit in Texas state court on behalf of himself and his two minor children, against defendants Humble Oil and Refining Company ("Humble") and Mr. and Mrs. A.C. Love, for injuries resulting from an automobile accident. The automobile belonged to the Loves and which Mrs. Love had left, unattended, upon the driveway of the Humble filling station. Mrs. Love left the automobile at the station so it could be serviced by Humble's employees. The automobile began to roll, while unoccupied, from the filling station out into and across the street, and onto the Martins' property where it struck Martin and his two children. The trial court rendered judgments for the Martins against Humble and Mrs. Love, jointly and severally, and gave Love judgment against Humble for whatever she might pay the Martins. On appeal, the court of appeals reformed the judgment to eliminate the judgment in favor of Love over Humble, reversed as to that judgment, and otherwise affirmed the trial court's judgment. Humble and Mrs. Love appealed.

Issue:

Was Humble entitled to recovery from Mrs. Love?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment, as modified, to allow Humble recovery against Mrs. Love by way of indemnity for such sums as it might pay and be required to pay under the judgment rendered against it in favor of the Martins. The court found that Humble was liable to the Martins based on: (1) Humble's responsibility for the operation of the station based on a master-servant relationship; and (2) the station operator's duty of care to prevent cars left with it from rolling away and injuring persons or property. The court found that Mrs. Love was liable to the Martins based upon her failure to set the emergency break on her car. Humble was entitled to prevail against Mrs. Love for indemnity based on her breach of duty to Humble and to the public.

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