VIII. Vicarious Liability | Jonathan Zittrain | June 16, 2011

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VIII. Vicarious Liability

Original Creator: bfidler.jd13 Current Version: Jonathan Zittrain Show/Hide

Sometimes third parties can be called to account for others’ actions, as if they were the direct wrongdoers. For example, a court might hold a company responsible for the negligence of its employees — an employee’s wrong becomes the company’s wrong. This extension of liability can be important to a plaintiff who might otherwise be unable to collect damages from the shallower pockets of the original wrongdoer.

This concept is often referred to as “vicarious liability”. A common form of vicarious liability is that of an employer for their employee— “respondeat superior”. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is liable for any actions that fall within an employee’s scope of employment. In other words, McDonald’s might pay for an employee who carelessly spills hot coffee on a customer, but not when he or she goes home and spills hot coffee on a family member.

However, in many situations it is not so clear cut if the employee’s torts occur within his or her employment. Should a company pay for an employee’s car accident that occurs during a lunch break, away from work? Should a club owner pay for the injuries its bartender inflicts upon a customer who refuses to pay?

To answer these questions we consider cases that illustrate both the fundamentals of and exceptions to vicarious liability.

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    1. 1.1 Show/Hide More Miller v. Reiman Wuerth Co.--"The Bank Errand Case"
      Original Creator: bfidler.jd13 Current Version: Jonathan Zittrain
      Can personal errands done during business hours fall under the scope of employment?
    2. 1.2 Show/Hide More Christensen v. Swenson--"The Lunch Break Case"
      Original Creator: bfidler.jd13 Current Version: Jonathan Zittrain
      Is an employee acting within the scope of her employment during her lunch break?
    1. 2.1 Show/Hide More Bussard v. Minimed, Inc.--"The Noxious Office Fumes Case"
      Original Creator: bfidler.jd13 Current Version: Jonathan Zittrain
      Are there cases where a commute does not fall under the goings-and-comings rule?
    2. 2.2 Show/Hide More Kuehn v. Inter-city Freight--"The Road Rage Case"
      Original Creator: Jonathan Zittrain
      How should courts distinguish between employee's personal outbursts and their work on behalf of the company?
    3. 2.3 Show/Hide More Sage Club v. Hunt--"The Violent Bartender"
      Original Creator: Jonathan Zittrain
      Can certain jobs or duties create a scope of employment that encompasses intentional torts?
    4. 2.4 Show/Hide More Roessler v. Novak--"The 'Independent' Radiology Department"
      Original Creator: bfidler.jd13 Current Version: Jonathan Zittrain
      Can an entity be vicariously liable for actions notwithstanding the actual employment status of the wrongful actor?
    5. 2.5 Show/Hide More Shuck v. Means--"The Secret, Teenage Rental Car Driver"
      Original Creator: bfidler.jd13 Current Version: Jonathan Zittrain
      When a car renter allows a third-party to operate the vehicle (in violation of the rental agreement), can the rental agency be liable for the wrongful acts of the third-party?
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October 17, 2013

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