What to do if my receptionist is not authorized to accept services on my behalf but did just that?

UPDATED: Feb 27, 2013

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What to do if my receptionist is not authorized to accept services on my behalf but did just that?

I own a small medical office and have 2 employees – a receptionist and an office manager. The receptionist received a call from the local Yellow Pages for an online advertisement. She said she didn’t authorize it but now they are calling everyday and faxing over an invoice and threatening to turn it over to collections. Am I legally obligated to pay this even thought it was “authorized “by my receptionist and not myself? Also, I knew nothing about it until now, apparently this phone call happened 5 months ago.

Asked on February 27, 2013 under Business Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the vendor would reasonably think that your receptionist had the authority to accept on your behalf, then they could rely on her "apparent authority"; that is, if a person would seem to have authority to reasonable outside third parties, that appearance of authority is enough for them in most cases. You can, of course, dispute that she ever in fact authorized this; then it will come down, if they sue you, to how is more credible and/or has supporting evidence (e.g. a recorded call)--the vendor or your receptionist.

If she did in fact authorize this while knowing that she did not have authority, you could sue her to recover the cost from her--she acted outside her authority, and so could be liable.

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