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Contract Liability

15 January, 2016 - 09:35

It makes sense that an agent should be liable for her own torts; it would be a bad social policy indeed if a person could escape tort liability based on her own fault merely because she acted in an agency capacity. It also makes sense that—as is the general rule—an agent is not liable on contracts she makes on the principal’s behalf; the agent is not a party to a contract made by the agent on behalf of the principal. No public policy would be served by imposing liability, and in many cases it would not make sense. Suppose an agent contracts to buy $25 million of rolled aluminum for a principal, an airplane manufacturer. The agent personally could not reasonably perform such contract, and it is not intended by the parties that she should be liable. (Although the rule is different in England, where an agent residing outside the country is liable even if it is clear that he is signing in an agency capacity.) But there are three exceptions to this rule: (1) if the agent is undisclosed or partially disclosed, (2) if the agent lacks authority or exceeds it, or (3) if the agent entered into the contract in a personal capacity. We consider each situation.