vicarious liability

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to vicarious liability: Volenti non fit injuria

Vicarious Liability

The tort doctrine that imposes responsibility upon one person for the failure of another, with whom the person has a special relationship (such as Parent and Child, employer and employee, or owner of vehicle and driver), to exercise such care as a reasonably prudent person would use under similar circumstances.

Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that assigns liability for an injury to a person who did not cause the injury but who has a particular legal relationship to the person who did act negligently. It is also referred to as imputed Negligence. Legal relationships that can lead to imputed negligence include the relationship between parent and child, Husband and Wife, owner of a vehicle and driver, and employer and employee. Ordinarily the independent negligence of one person is not imputable to another person.

Other theories of liability that are premised on imputed negligence include the Respondeat Superior doctrine and the family car doctrine.

The doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for "let the master answer") is based on the employer-employee relationship. The doctrine makes the employer responsible for a lack of care on the part of an employee in relation to those to whom the employer owes a duty of care. For respondeat superior to apply, the employee's negligence must occur within the scope of her employment.

The employer is charged with legal responsibility for the negligence of the employee because the employee is held to be an agent of the employer. If a negligent act is committed by an employee acting within the general scope of her or his employment, the employer will be held liable for damages. For example, if the driver of a gasoline delivery truck runs a red light on the way to a gas station and strikes another car, causing injury, the gasoline delivery company will be responsible for the damages if the driver is found to be negligent. Because the company will automatically be found liable if the driver is negligent, respondeat superior is a form of Strict Liability.

Another common example of imputed negligence is attributing liability to the owner of a car, where the driver of the car committed a negligent act. This type of relationship has been labeled the family car doctrine. The doctrine is based on the assumption that the head of the household provides a car for the family's use and, therefore, the operator of the car acts as an agent of the owner. When, for example, a child drives a car, registered to a parent, for a family purpose, the parent is responsible for the negligent acts of the child at the wheel.

Liability can also be imputed to an owner of a car who lends it to a friend. Again, the driver of the car is acting as the agent of the owner. If the owner is injured by the driver's negligence and sues the driver, the owner can lose the lawsuit because the negligence of the driver can be imputed to the owner, thereby rendering him contributorily negligent. This concept is known as imputed contributory negligence.


Scope of Employment; Tort Law.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

vicarious liability

n. sometimes called "imputed liability," attachment of responsibility to a person for harm or damages caused by another person in either a negligence lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Thus, an employer of an employee who injures someone through negligence while in the scope of employment (doing work for the employer) is vicariously liable for damages to the injured person. In most states a participant in a crime (like a hold-up) may be vicariously liable for murder if another member of the gang shoots and kills a shopkeeper or policeman. (See: liability)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

vicarious liability

liability where one person, himself blameless, is held liable for another person's conduct. The rule is often justified by reference to two Latin maxims: respondeat superior (‘let the master answer’) and qui facit per alium facit per se (‘he who acts through another acts himself). It is now accepted as a matter of policy, shifting the burden of the cost of accidents upon someone more likely to be able to pay. The most widely used example is the employer's liability for his employee. There is, however, generally no liability for an independent contractor like a taxi driver or removal firm. For there to be vicarious liability in respect of an employee, the traditional rule is that the acts must be ‘in the course of his employment’, which does not rule out negligent or even deliberate wrongs by the employee but excludes cases where the employee has gone off on a frolic of his own. However, recently the House of Lords has accepted that there may be liability where there is a ‘close connection’ with the employer's work, even where the conduct of the employee is wrong and unforeseen, as in one case where a bouncer went home to get a weapon to attack a patron and in another of child abuse in a children's hostel by one of the staff.

For there to be liability in respect of an agent, the relationship will be examined to see whether the wrongdoer is acting on the other's business or for his instructed purposes. However, there is not in the UK any concept of a family car that would, without more, make one spouse liable for the other spouse's driving.

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
Typically, courts in these various nations will analyze a franchisor's potential vicarious liability based on domestic legal systems.
In affirming the single-entity rule, the court relied exclusively on BMC and considered the general principles of vicarious liability for divided infringement; thus, the court effectively excluded any joint and several liability from the scope of direct infringement under Section 271(a).
It is important to note that the Franca court held only that a passenger could use vicarious liability to state a cause of action against a ship owner--it did not establish that such an agency relationship exists as a matter of law.
What has been largely overlooked, however, is that courts--sensitive to the transformation in the nature of the section 10(b) action--have already limited the application of vicarious liability. Aware that the justifications for vicarious liability no longer fit the modern section 10(b) cause of action, courts have used the disaggregation of actus reus from mens rea commonly exhibited in fraud-on-the-market cases as a lever to decouple corporate liability from misconduct that originates from lower level employees.
The Court flatly rejected the contention that the existence of a comprehensive franchise operating system alone establishes the kind of relationship that can give rise to franchisor vicarious liability for the conduct of a franchisee's employee, concluding that "a contrary approach would turn business format franchising on its head." The amicus briefs from the IFA and franchisees lent important support to that reasoning.
Vicarious Liability in the Context of Other Animal Protects
This Note is the first piece of legal scholarship to present a thorough defense of vicarious liability under the ESA.
In addition, statutes and legal precedents governing vicarious liability vary from state to state.
Bylsma sued Burger King for product liability, negligence and vicarious liability, claiming "ongoing emotional trauma."
Under the new cover the AOP will handle claims against the business in respect of its vicarious liability for medical malpractice arising out of the acts or omissions of qualified staff--optometrists and DOs who are employed or engaged as locums by the business in carrying out their work--and the work of unqualified staff under their supervision, as appropriate.
* Private plaintiffs have not typically prevailed in this attempt to impose vicarious liability based on basic agency theory, because the mortgage broker is generally an agent of the borrower and not an agent of the lender.