Agent Fails to Dislcose Principal Exists, Avoids Liability
Was the limited liability company statute supposed to eliminate basic principles of agency law? That seemsto be the import of a decision by the Appellate Division of Superior Court in Castro v. Giacchi, Docket No. A-6220-12T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. December 5, 2014)(Opinion Below) that reversed a judgment against an individual who failed to disclose that he was acting on behalf of a limited liability company.
Perhaps just as important as our first question: does it really matter? Here the answer is pretty easy. Absolutely. Understanding agency law – that is the law that governs when one person acts on behalf of another – is critical to understanding how business entities function. The reason is that even though a business entity is a legal person, but it can an only act through its agents. The business entity is distinct from its principals.
Contractor’s Handshake Deal with Sub
The decision arose out of a contruction contract. Castro was subcontracted to do carpentry work on a new home under construction in Southhamptom by Defendants. It was a handshake deal. Plaintiff contended that he never knew Giacchi was acting on behalf of anyone other than himself, but he received two progress payments John & Sons ANG, LLC. The final bill was sent to ANG.
Ordinarily, an agent who fails to disclose he is entering into a contract on behalf of a principal is individually liable on the contract, unless the other party knows or had reason to know the agent was acting on behalf of a principal.
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But N.J.S.A. 42:2B-23 shielded a member or agent of a limited liability company from all of its debts. The statute did not limit the circumstances under which a member or agent was immune from liability, including those where a member or agent of a limited liability company entered into a contract without disclosing the identity of its principal. Being clear and unambiguous, our sole function is to enforce the statute according to its terms.