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See also Family Car Doctrine. There is generally no vicarious liability between automobile owners and drivers. There is no vicarious liability, but half of the states have enacted the family purpose doctrine which imposes liability for family or household members driving with the owner's express or implied permission. An owner of a motor vehicle purchased or maintained for the pleasure of his/her family is liable for injuries inflicted by the negligent operation of the vehicle while it is being used by members of the family for their own pleasure. This theory is premised on the general concept that the vehicle is being used for the purpose or business for which it was kept, and that the person operating it is therefore acting as the owner's agent or servant in using it.


The family purpose doctrine was first recognized in Tennessee in King v. Smythe, 140 Tenn. 217, 204 S.W. 296 (Tenn. 1918), just ten years after the introduction of the Ford Model T automobile when the automotive industry was still in its infancy. This doctrine imposes vicarious liability on a head of the household for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by a family member provided ...

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