Element 4 – The driver of the vehicle was a member of the family or household of the person who had control over the vehicle.
Lastly, in order to establish the family purpose doctrine, you must be able to prove that the driver of the vehicle was a member of the household. In other words, the driver lives with the person in control of the vehicle. With this being said, the person does not need to be related to the owner of the vehicle, as long as they live within the household. The examples below help provide a better understanding.
Let’s assume that a “live-in” nanny was driving her boss’s vehicle that is generally used for family purposes. While driving the kids to school, the nanny rear-ends you at a stoplight, causing an accident. Under these facts, the fourth element of the family purpose doctrine could be established because the nanny lived in the household of the person in control of the vehicle (her boss).
Let’s now assume that the nanny only worked four days a week and did not live with the family. The nanny used the family’s vehicle whenever she drove the kids to and from school. While driving the family vehicle to take the children to school, the nanny rear-ends you, causing an accident. Under these circumstances, the family purpose doctrine will not likely apply. The nanny only works four times a week and does not live with the family; therefore, you will not likely be able to establish that the nanny was a part of the household.
Important Note: The burden of proof is on the plaintiff (injured party). This means that the plaintiff must prove, by the preponderance of the evidence (greater weight of the evidence) that all four elements of the family purpose doctrine exist in order to have liability transferred to the person in control of the vehicle.
In order to establish the family purpose doctrine, the injured party (plaintiff) has the burden of proof. In other words, the plaintiff must establish all four elements of the doctrine in order to have liability transferred to the person in “control” of the vehicle. Lastly, though the family purpose doctrine does allow you to hold a third party liable for an accident, the liability is limited and carefully applied to each case. Therefore, using and proving the family purpose doctrine can be a difficult feat.