Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability, also known by the Latin term “respondeat superior,” applies when an employer is liable for the acts committed by his or her employees while in the course and scope of their employment. Vicarious liability can apply in employer-employee relationships or principal-agent relationships. If an employee is under the control of an employer and the wrongful act occurs while the employee is on the job, the employer will be liable to the third party for his or her injuries. Control is the key factor in determining whether liability will attach.

Employer-Employee – Going and Coming Rule

Generally, under the going and coming rule, an employer is not vicariously liable when an employee commits an act of negligence while traveling to or from work. An exception applies when an employee is on a special errand for the employer. This exception will apply even if the employee is conducting the special errand outside of his or her usual working hours. The rationale is that the employee is acting under the control and benefit of the employer, and therefore, acting within the course and scope of his or her employment.

Case Examples

When there is a material dispute as to whether an employee is acting in the course and scope of his employment, the issue becomes a question of fact for the jury. Below are case examples of when the Nevada Supreme Court found there was enough factual evidence to present the case to a jury.

  • In National Convenience Stores v. Fantauzzi, an employee was found liable for wrongful death when he was driving to a store for the benefit of his employer and had a head-on collision with another vehicle. The scope of the employment required him to travel to various stores for the benefit of his employer. The employee was in his vehicle and was not scheduled to work on the day of the accident. The Nevada Supreme Court held that the employee had “broad discretionary authority” to work well past his usual working hours to complete assignments and was assigned tasks “of which necessity took him away from his normal place of employment.” National Convenience Stores v. Fantauzzi, 94 Nev. 655, 658 (1978).
  • In Evans v. Southwest Gas, a Southwest Gas employee was on call, outside of his usual working hours, to respond to emergencies. He was also provided a company work van and a hand-held radio for communication when he was not in his van. While driving home from work, the employee crossed a center line onto northbound traffic and collided with a school bus. The Nevada Supreme Court determined that Southwest Gas had control over the employee because it required him, as an on-call technician, to take the company van home so that he had the ability to respond to emergency calls, thus benefiting the company. Evans v. Southwest Gas, 108 Nev. 1002, 1006 (1992). “The fact that Stokes was not responding to an emergency at the time of the accident does not, by itself, relieve Southwest of vicarious liability for Stokes’ acts.” Id. at 1008.

How An Attorney Can Help

Vicarious liability is determined on a case-by-case basis. If you have been injured in a car accident and have reason to believe the negligent actor was working in the course and scope of his employment, please work with car accident lawyers at the law firm, Eglet Adams. The law firm has prior experience in determining if vicarious liability applies to your case.

Thanks to Eglet Adams for their insight on vicarious liability.