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Funeral Attendee Not VFW Agent

Plaintiffs have not shown that an individual defendant was acting as an agent of the local or national Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations when he attended funerals, and the Wise County Circuit Court dismisses plaintiffs’ complaint on defendants’ plea in bar.

The party asserting a plea in bar bears the burden of proof on the issues presented, and the court has taken evidence on the sole issue presented: whether an agency relationship existed between defendant Dallas Shell and the national and local VFWs.

There is no evidence that the VFW – either on the local or national level – controlled the means by which Dallas Shell attended these funerals, required him to appear, or had any control whatsoever over Shell’s participation in the funerals. Also, there is no evidence that the VFW knew that Shell intended to drive his vehicle to the funeral, or ordered him to do so. Neither the national or local VFW had any control over his actions prior to arriving at the funeral. The fact that Shell wore a uniform and was traveling to a VFW function is clearly not significant enough to establish agency, under any reasonable interpretation of the law in this area.

Therefore, the court cannot find that any agency relationship existed between these parties. Further, the evidence establishes that the national VFW does not control or supervise the activities of local posts, and is not liable for the actions of said posts.

The court sustains the pleas in bar filed by both the national and local VFW defendants, and therefore orders dismissal of plaintiffs’ amended complaint against each of these particular defendants.

Ridings, Adm’r v. Shell and VFWs (Dotson) No. CL 11-432, May 3, 2013; Wise County Cir.Ct.; Michael R. Spitzer II, C. Adam Kinser, Robert V. Ward, Frank Kilgore, Sean C. Workowski and Macel H. Janoschka for the parties. VLW 013-8-055, 2 pp.

VLW 013-8-055

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