Vicarious Liability

Respondent Superior -Liability for Acts of Employees

Your actions can directly cause a lawsuit not only against you, but also against your employer. The term respondent superior literally means “the superior shall respond”. Under the doctrine, the innocent principal or employer is liable for the torts of the agent or employee committed while acting within the scope of his employment. It is immaterial that he acts in excess of his authority or contrary to instructions. (See, Rest.2d, Agency §§219, 243 et seq.; also, Calif. Civil Code 2338.)

Course and Scope of Employment

To impose liability on the principal or employer ,it is essential that the agent or employee be acting for the principal within the scope of his employment (i.e., engaged in work he was employed to perform, during his working hours). (See Rest.2d, Agency §§228, 229, 235).

The question as to whether or not an employee is acting within the course and scope of employment depends upon whether the act was: (1) either required by, or incident to, the employee’s duties, or (2) could be reasonably foreseen as an outgrowth of the employee’s duties. (Borg-Warner Protective Services Corporation dba Wells Fargo Guard Services v. Superior Court (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 1203.)

The reasons for holding the employer responsible for the actions of the employee, if the employee is acting in the course and scope of employment, are to prevent recurrence of the tortious conduct, to give greater assurance of compensation for the victim, and to ensure that the victim’s losses will be equitably borne by those who benefit from the enterprise that give rise to the injury.” (Mary M. v. Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 202, 209, 285 Cal.Rptr. 99, 814 P.2d 1341.)

Vicarious Liability and Intentional Torts

Liability under the doctrine of respondent superior extends to malicious acts and other intentional torts of an employee committed within the scope of his employment. (See Rest.2d, Agency §§231, 244 et seq.; 17 Cal. L. Rev. 185; 82 Harv. L. Rev. 1568; 12 So. Cal. L. Rev. 196; 1942 A.S. 495.)