O'Banner v. McDonald's Corp.

173 Ill. 2d 208, 218 Ill. Dec. 910, 670 N.E.2d 632 (1996)



Apparent agency, also known in Illinois as apparent authority, has long been recognized. The doctrine is based on principles of estoppel. The idea is that if a principal creates the appearance that someone is his agent, he should not then be permitted to deny the agency if an innocent third party reasonably relies on the apparent agency and is harmed as a result.


A customer filed suit against a company for an action to recover damages for personal injuries he allegedly sustained when he slipped and fell in the bathroom of a restaurant the company owned. The company promptly moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the restaurant was actually owned by one of its franchisees and that it neither owned, operated, maintained, nor controlled the facility. The circuit court granted the summary judgment in favor of the company but on appeal, the judgment was reversed. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois.


Was the summary judgment in favor of the company proper?




The court held that even if patron had properly raised the theory of apparent agency in the circuit court, summary judgment against him was nevertheless proper. The court held that in order to recover on an apparent agency theory, patron had to show that he actually did rely on the apparent agency in going to the restaurant where he was allegedly injured. The court held that because the record was devoid of anything remotely suggesting that the necessary reliance was present and the appellate court was therefore wrong to reverse the circuit court's entry of summary judgment in company's favor based on the apparent agency doctrine. Thus, affirmed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.

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