An architect may be empowered, and act, as agent of the owner. Aside from this possibility, the law of agency is so much involved in business transactions, that it is highly desirable to understand in some degree the principles of that branch of the law. The general principle of agency is that a person acting through another is as much bound as if he acted directly, without such an instrument.

Agent Or Independent Contractor

Not every person employed by another to accomplish an object, is an agent. The relation of agency implies control of the agent by the principal. A person may be employed to do certain things in such a way as to leave him independent, so far as any such authority of his employer is concerned, and bound to his employer only by such definite agreements as exist between them. Thus it has been held that a person employed under a certain contract to build a house for another, was not an agent, but was an independent contractor; and it is probable that the contractor under the ordinary building contract would be so held. An important result of this would be that the owner would not be liable for acts and neglect of the contractor in the way in which it will appear a principal is liable for acts and neglect of his agent.

Powers Of Agent

So long as an agent acts within the scope of his authority, he binds his principal thereby. The authority of an agent may be expressly granted or impliedly granted. If persons dealing with an agent know him to be acting under a written power of attorney, they are bound to inquire and take notice of the nature and scope of the power, and fail to do so at their own risk. If the expression of the authority has excluded a certain power, persons dealing with the agent are held to know that such is the fact, and cannot, therefore, hold the principal bound by the action of his agent in excess of the power granted. But an agent may, and usually does, have powers outside of such as are expressed. These are called implied powers. The extent of such implied powers is oftentimes a difficult question of law. Such powers are to be implied only from facts from which is inferred the intention of the principal to grant them. It is said that every delegation of power carries with it, as implied powers, authority to do all things reasonably necessary and proper to carry into effect the main power conferred, and not forbidden by the principal. Moreover a widely known and long existing usage which is reasonable and not contrary to law, may have the effect of conferring power upon an agent in addition to that expressly granted. It is also to be noted that although an act of an agent exceeds his authority, the principal may subsequently ratify the act so as to make it binding upon himself as if authorized in the first instance.

Liability Of Principal

Not only is a principal liable upon such contractual obligations as may be entered into by his agent acting in his behalf within the scope of the granted authority, but the principal is also liable for such torts, or civil wrongs, such as trespass, assault, or battery, which his agent may commit in the course of his business. This often proves a serious matter to employers, although the development of liability insurance has furnished a means of equalizing the risks. This shows further the importance of the question whether a person is an agent or an independent contractor. If he be the former, then the principal as well as the agent himself, is liable for torts. If the latter, there is no way of going back of the individual wrongdoing.