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Hoddeson v. Koos Bros

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff, Joan Hoddeson, brought an action against Defendant furniture store, Koos Bros., when Defendant refused to reimburse Plaintiff for money she gave an alleged salesman imposter at Defendant’s store.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Absent proof of an agency relationship, a party may still have a duty of care for the other party to ensure that the other party is not disadvantaged in dealing with the party.

    Facts. Plaintiff and her family entered Defendant’s store to purchase bedroom furniture. A man approached Plaintiff purporting to be a salesman for Defendant store. Plaintiff gave salesman cash for furniture to be delivered to her home at a later date because the salesman said that it was out of stock. Plaintiff did not get a receipt for the transaction. After the delivery date lapsed without a delivery, Plaintiff contacted Defendant. Defendant did not have a record of the transaction, and Plaintiff and her family were not able to identify the salesperson from Defendant’s staff. A jury found for Plaintiff, and Defendant appealed, arguing that there was a lack of evidence to establish an agency relationship.

    Issue. The issue is whether Defendant can be held liable for the conduct of an impostor agent.

    Held. Defendant can be estopped from asserting that no claim existed when there was no agency relationship established. Defendant, as a furniture store, still owed a duty of care to Plaintiff when she enters the store and has an expectation that she will be tend to by an actual salesperson rather than an impostor. Therefore, a new trial was ordered in order to allow Plaintiff to establish a duty of care.

    Discussion. The case here is very similar to Botticello v. Stefanowicz in that an agency relationship never existed because the principal had no knowledge of an agency relationship. However, in this case the defendant was held to a higher level because the circumstances.


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