Respondeat superior is when an employer, master, or principal is liable for its employee, servant, or agent.
Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is ordinarily liable for the injuries its employees cause others in the scope of their employment. Respondeat superior imposes liability whether or not the employer was itself negligent, and whether or not the employer had control of the employee.
Acts necessary to the comfort, convenience, health, and welfare of the employee do not take the employee outside the scope of employment.
The going-and-coming rule says that commute to and from work is outside the scope of one's employment.
The going-and-coming rule does not apply when an employee endangers others with a risk arising from or related to work. This is determined by if it "was a generally foreseeable consequence of the activity." The conduct is foreseeable if it is not so startling or unusual that it would seem unfair to include the loss as part of the employer's cost of doing business.
Approximately half of the states follow the slight deviation rule, which says that a detour, or a slight deviation, is sufficiently related to the scope of employment, but a frolic, a substantial deviation, is not.
- Only when it is reasonably connected with the employment and so within its scope of employment.
Employers are not vicariously responsible for the tortious acts of independent contractors.
A person is a contractor if he has the right to control the physical details of the work.
- Where there is a non-delegable duty, the person upon whom the duty is imposed is responsible for an independent contractor's actions in negligently performing that duty.
One who represents that another party is his servant or agent may be held vicariously liable for the latter's negligent acts to the extent of that representation.
- When the contractor is negligent in performing an abnormally dangerous activity, the person who hired him is vicariously liable.
- One who contracts for an illegal activity is vicariously liable for any damage done by such an independent contractor.
The Restatement (Second) of Torts § 491 comment c defines the four elements of a joint enterprise as:
- an agreement, express or implied, among the members of the group;
- a common purpose to be carried out by the group;
- a community of pecuniary interest in that purpose, among the members; and
- an equal right to a voice in the direction of the enterprise, which gives an equal right of control.
- It is traditionally presumed that an owner controls the vehicle when he is a passenger therein, but many states have abandoned this presumption.
- One is liable for his own negligence in loaning out his car.
Some jurisdictions allow contributory negligence to be imputed to a party for the negligent acts of another.
The majority rejects imputed contributory negligence.
While largely rejected, contributory negligence is still generally imputed on an employer for the negligent actions of its employee.
When a claim is held to be derivative in nature, such as loss of consortium or wrongful death, the contributory negligence of an injured party will still be imputed to the plaintiff, barring or reducing his claims.