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.
Respondeat superior generally does not apply for intentional torts.
- Only when it is reasonably connected with the employment and so within its scope of employment.
- The majority of jurisdictions and the Restatement do not allow punitive damages unless the principal authorized or ratified the acts, was reckless in employing or retaining the agent, or the agent was employed in a managerial capacity and was acting in the 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.
- When the contractor is negligent in performing an abnormally dangerous activity, the person who hired him is vicariously liable.
- This is is broader than strict liability's "abnormally dangerous activity." This is merely any activity that involves a peculiar risk of harm that calls for more than ordinary precaution.
- One who contracts for an illegal activity is vicariously liable for any damage done by such an independent contractor.