ElderLaw News-The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News
ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

AGENTS BEWARE: FAILURE TO DISCLOSE YOUR PRINCIPAL LEADS TO PERSONAL LIABILITY

In January 2016, Judge Smith with the Fairfax County, Virginia Circuit Court issued an opinion letter in Flood Doctor, Inc. v. Winters, et al. that rendered an agent personally liable for his principal’s debts after the agent failed to disclose the individual for whom he was acting when he signed a contract.

The Defendant, Bryan Winters was a resident of Florida who was an agent under a power of attorney for his aunt, Doris Acree. Bryan Winters contracted for services at his aunt’s residence, signing the contract as “authorized agent”, and then failed to pay the $24,553.81 outstanding balance for services performed. After Flood Doctor, Inc. brought suit to collect against Bryan Winters and Doris Acree, Bryan Winters argued that, among other things, since he was contracting on behalf of his aunt, with whom he held an agency relationship, that he was not personally liable for the unpaid balance.

The court, relying on Lambert v. Phillips & Son, 109 Va, 632 (1909) and Mechem on Agency, reasoned that it has long been held that, in general, an agent acting on behalf of a disclosed principal is not personally liable for any breach of contract by the agent. However, the court found that Bryan Winters failed to disclose the principal for whom he was acting, and that the mere disclosure of the fact that one is acting as an agent will not protect an individual from personal liability.

We typically recommend that an agent sign on behalf of their principal as follows: “John Doe, by Jane Doe, his power of attorney who acts without personal liability” or “Jane Doe, as power of attorney for John Doe, who signs without personal liability.” This discloses to the vendor with whom you are contracting that you are acting in an agency role on behalf of another named individual, and that you do not sign in a personal nature. While this detail may take some extra time to write out, it could save you money in the long run.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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