Family Purpose Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

The family purpose doctrine is a theory of liability in tort law that establishes liability on the owner of a "family car" when it causes an accident due to the negligence of another family member. The owner of the car becomes a principal and the negligent family member driver becomes their agent, whose actions are imputed to the owner. The theory of this liability is that the vehicle is owned for family purposes and liability attaches to the owner whether the car was driven by a family member without or without permission. Therefore, the doctrine is inapplicable to a family member driving a car titled in their own name.