Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Principal Definition:

An agent’s master.

Related Terms: Agent, Ratification, Agency, Fiduciary

An agent’s master; the person for whom an agent has received instruction and to whose benefit the agent is expected to perform and make decisions.

  • (Further reading: see the extensive article on Agency Law).

An excellent and succinct summary of the law can be found in these words of Justice Kanner of the District Court of Appeal of Florida in the 1958 case of King v. Young:

"The term agency may be defined as a contract either express or implied upon a consideration, or a gratuitous undertaking, by which one of the parties confides to the other the management of some business to be transacted in his name or on his account, and by which that other assumes to do the business and render an account of it.

"In an agency relationship, the party for whom another acts and from whom he derives authority to act is known and referred to as a principal, while the other party who acts for and represents the principal and who acquires his authority from him is known and referred to as an agent. Thus, the agent steps into the shoes of his principal and acts for him pursuant to the grant of authority vested in him by the principal."

Other basic, fundamental rules of law in regards to the legal definition of a principal in the context of the law of agency:

  • "Whatever the agent does in the lawful prosecution of the business intrusted to him, is the act of the principal."1
  • "Agency has been defined as the fiduciary relation which results from the manifestation of consent by one person to another that the other shall act on his behalf and subject to his control, and consent by the other to so act."2
  • "An agency relationship contains three essential attributes. First, the agent must have the power to alter the legal relations between the principal and third parties. Second, the agent must be a fiduciary of the principal in matters within the scope of the agency. Third, the principal must have the right to control the agent's conduct of matters entrusted to her."3


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