Vicarious Liability

Angry Customer on Crutches:  “I tripped on a pencil left on the floor by one of your employees and sprained my ankle.”

Tired Shopkeeper with Broom:  “That must have been Buster.  I fired him yesterday for dropping  his pencil.  What can I do for you?”

Angry Customer:  “You can pay me $15,000 plus medical expenses.”

Tired Shopkeeper:  “I require my employees to provide their own pencils,  and Buster brought his own pencil to work. I’m not going to pay you a dime.”

Angry Customer:  “Yes, you are.  You have vicarious liability.”

Vicarious liability?!?

Vicarious liability is where you are responsible for the harm that someone else caused.  An employer, for example, is responsible for the harm caused by the negligent conduct of an employee during the course and scope of employment.

A party with vicarious liability for the conduct of another is liable to the same extent as the person who caused the harm.

“Isn’t that why we carry premises liability insurance?” you ask.  “Yes,” we say. “So,” you ask,  “what’s the big deal?”  “Well,” we say,  “not all vicarious liability may be covered by insurance.”  “Like what?”  you ask. “Like lots of stuff, ” we say, with authority.  “What’s your point,” you ask.  “You need to be aware,’ we say,  “that you may have vicarious liability for the conduct of another, like your employee, or agent, or volunteer, or contractor, or the dog that you let your customer tie up to the bike rack for use by store customers and that bites the first passerby.”

“Huh“ you say,  as you cautiously step around the sleeping dog tied to a street sign in front of our office.  “Let me think about that.”

This article is intended only to give an overview of vicarious liability and is not intended as legal advice.  For legal advice you should consult your attorney.