Marlee and Richard Snowdon bought a house next door to Hal and Carol Dickinson. Carol had owned the house for 30 years; Hal had moved in 10 to 15 years later when he and Carol married. Hal had no ownership interest in the property.
The Snowdons decided to clean out an area of overgrowth adjacent to the Dickinson land. Richard spoke with Hal, who okayed the work. Marlee hired Charter Oaks for the project. Hal expressed impatience to Richard over the lack of progress and Richard told Hal that Charter was coming soon.
As Charter was working the first day, Hal came out into the yard to look at what was going on and then went back into the house. The next day, Carol returned from an out-of-town trip and was upset to see what Charter had done. She ordered the company to stop work. She then filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the harm to her property.
Charter admitted that Carol had not personally given permission for the landscaping work, but claimed it had relied on Hal’s apparent authority. The jury returned a verdict for Charter on Carol’s trespass and damage to vegetation claims and Carol appealed.
Issue: Did Hal Dickinson have apparent authority to make decisions about Carol Snowdon’s property?
Holding: Judgment for Charter Oaks affirmed. A husband and wife are not necessarily agents for each other. However, in this case, Hal worked frequently in the Dickinson yard, both alone and with his wife. He also dealt with contractors, including a tree service Carol hired. No one ever told the Snowdons that Hal was not authorized to make decisions about landscaping. Therefore, it was reasonable for the Snowdons to assume that Hal did have authority on landscaping matters.
a. Who owned the house that the Dickinsons lived in?
b. Did Hal have actual authority to make decisions on landscaping?
c. Did Carol tell Charter Oaks that Hal had authority?
d. Did Carol give approval to Charter Oaks for the work they did?
e. So wouldn’t Charter Oaks be liable for the damage they did to Carol’s property?