Vicarious Liability

What is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability refers to the liability incurred by employers due to the negligent act and/or omission by their employees in the ordinary course of their employment with the employer. The common law holds that he who acts through another, acts in his own interests. This principle makes the employer liable for the negligent acts and omissions of his employees for as long as they were in the course of their employment with the employer.

This principle therefore allows employers to take responsibility of the negligence of other people. For instance, if an accident occurs at the company’s workplace, the employer may not be directly linked to the accident but he may be considered to have allowed the accident to occur. He is therefore liable for the accident. The fact that there was an employment causes vicarious liability and not the employer’s actions as such.

Vicarious liability is therefore attributable to the employment contract between the employer and his employees. As long as there is an employment relationship between the employer and the employee, the employer will be liable for any negligent act or omission of the employees in their course of employment.

Rules Used to Determine Vicarious Liability

The courts apply various rules in order to determine whether the employee’s negligent act or omission needs to be shifted to the employer.

Master-Servant Relationship

First, master-servant relationship must be established between the employer and employee in order for the courts to determine whether the liability should be shifted to the employer or not. In this case, the employer is considered as the master and the employee is considered as the servant. The master is liable for the actions of the servant provided that the servant acts or behaves negligently in his employment duties for the employer (Adams, 2012). Therefore, the tortfeasor should be an employee in a master/servant relationship and not an independent contractor.

In the Course of Employment

Secondly, the negligent act or omission must have been carried out in the course of employment. The court should establish that the employees were doing what their job required them to do when the tort occurred in order for the liability incurred to be shifted to the employer. If the court finds out that the employee was acting on their own, then the employer won’t be liable for any torts committed by the employees.

Agents and Partners

In the case of business partners, the court requires that both partners are held liable for the negligent acts/omissions of their employees in the course of their employment (Cooke, 2011). An employer is also liable for the negligence of his agents. An example of this situation can be illustrated in a situation where an employer employs a contractor to perform a given task. In this case, the employer will be liable for any injury caused by the agent to a third party while carrying out the task given to him under the employment contract with the employer

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