What Is Respondeat Superior?

Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine holding that an employer is responsible for the actions of his or her employees. However, these actions must have been performed while the employee was "on the clock." In the area of personal injury law, this doctrine would apply to a situation where, for example, a person suffers injuries in a car accident caused by a supermarket driver who was on their way to deliver a grocery order to the customer. In other words, an employer may be held liable for the tortious actions of the employees.

What Is The Purpose Of Respondeat Superior?

The doctrine of respondeat superior was established with the intention to obligate an employer for the tortious actions of his or her employees that have led to injury or damage to another person or entity. Respondeat superior allows people to seek adequate monetary recovery for their loss or injury.

How To Prove Respondeat Superior Liability?

In order to establish employer liability for respondeat superior, three general criteria must be met.

  1. The employee was working at the direction of the employer.
  2. The employee was “on the clock.”
  3. The employee’s actions were within the scope of employment; they were a part of the employee’s job duties.

Consequently, if the employee was not “on the clock” at the time of the accident, or if they were performing activities that could not be considered to be their job duties, the employer will not be held liable for any damage or injury resulting from the accident.

Work outside the scope of employment is referred to as "frolic" and "detour." These terms mean that the employee was performing activities outside the scope of their employment; the employee made a significant shift from the duties required by the employer. For instance, if the supermarket driver from the previous example causes an accident while taking a detour to pick up some flowers for a family member’s birthday, he or she may be considered to have engaged in a frolic.

What Qualifies for Respondeat Superior?

Broadly speaking, any tortious action qualifies for respondent superior; the action can be intentional, negligent or otherwise a violation of the law. It is important to recognize the key difference between intentional and negligent actions. The first category covers actions that are undertaken intentionally and cause harm, while the second one consists of actions lacking reasonable care that result in injury.

To summarize, respondeat superior is the general rule holding that an employer is responsible for the negligent acts or omissions within the scope of employment committed by the employees while being “on the clock.” The doctrine was established to allow the plaintiff to hold both the employer and the employee liable, and therefore obtain the most adequate compensation for the injury or damage.

If you’ve been injured by a car, truck, 18 wheeler, or company vehicle, call DeSouza Law today at (210) 910-HURT or (361) 799-2222.