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Buchanan v. Vowell

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Buchanan (plaintiff) sued Candance and Shannon Vowell (defendants) for negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If two people are acting in concert, and one of the persons is committing a tort, then both can be held liable for that tort.

    Facts.

    One of the defendants began drinking heavily after work and became intoxicated. The defendants agreed they would drive home in tandem, with one defendant following close behind the other, giving directions as needed through the telephone. While the two drove home while on the cell phone with each other, the intoxicated defendant hit the plaintiff as he walked on the edge of the road. The plaintiff suffered multiple fractures and brain damage after being thrown of the hood of the car. One of the defendants moved to dismiss the claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6) for failure to state a claim, which the trial court granted. 

    Issue.

    Whether if two people are acting in concert, and one of those people is committing a tort, then both can be held liable for that tort.

    Held.

    Yes. If two people are acting in concert, and one of the people is committing a tort, then both can be held liable for that tort.

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    If a person acts in concert with another individual, that is, there is a joint participation with another person who is committing a tort, then both can be held liable for that tort. Here, the defendants had an agreement to drive home, while one was intoxicated and was not, and the sober defendant was to follow close behind the intoxicated one, and their plan resulted in the plaintiff being injured by the intoxicated driver’s negligence. The defendants agreed to this plan and jointly participated in it. It follows that both defendants are jointly and severally liable.


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