Doctrine of Respondeat Superior

According to the Doctrine or Respondeat Superior, the employer may be held responsible for the actions of his/her employee, who commits a tort within the course of his/her employment even if the tort or error is an outright disobedience of the instructions of the employer. The person in a superior position would be held responsible for the action. The justification for the Respondent Superior Doctrine is that the employer has to pay something for increasing the extent of the business (as the employee cannot be held personally liable for professional actions).

Respondent Doctrine is a type of vicarious liability, and often depends on the evidence of wrongdoing of the employee during the course of employment. Usually, if it is found that the employee is liable, then the employer would be held liable for the actions of the employee, except in the case of willful neglect by the employee, which may not be concerned with the performance of any actions regarding employment (Eberly, 2010).

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There are few factors which are considered:- The act should be performed during the course of employment • The act should be concerned with employment

  • The act should not be a willful or intentional neglect by the employee
  • The employee should be held liable for the act (in case the employee is not held liable, then the employer can also not be held liable)
  • The act should not be performed out of a personal intention which would be out of the duties concerned with the employment (Ishman, 2006).

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In this particular case, the grocery store employee had to take the customer to the hospital as she went into labor in the store. However, on the way, he ran over Melnick’s dog and Melnick in turn held the employer responsible for the loss of his dog.

Melnick considered the owner vicariously liable for the actions of the employee. However, it would be interesting to find out who could be held liable in this case. If the employee was acting out of the need of his employment, then the owner could be held vicariously liable for his actions. For example, if the owner had a service wherein any person falling ill at the store would be transported to the hospital, then in such a case, the employer had to be held liable. However, if the employee was acting out of his personal intention to move the lady to the hospital, then he would be held liable and not the employer.

  • The defenses that can be given by the accused include:-
  • The accused was acting out of bare necessity of the situation wherein he had to reach the hospital immediately and later could give attention to the dog
  • The Driver had a reasonable cause to believe that he was not involved in an accident
  • The animal was uncontrollable at that particular moment and appropriate steps were taken by the driver to follow the signals given by the person in charge of the animal, in spite of which the accident occurred (ADLA, 2009).

References ADLA (2009).

  1. What the Law states for Road Accidents-Callous Disregard, Retrieved on June 1, 2010, from Web site: http://www. australiancriminallawyers. com. au/web/page/QLD_LAW_ROAD_ACCIDENTS_CALLOUS_DISREGARD_ Eberly (2010).
  2. Respondeat Superior, Retrieved on June 1, 2010, from Web site: http://www. eberly. iup. edu/mtroxell/respondeat_superior. htm Ishman, M. (2006).
  3. Computer Crimes and Respondeat Superior Doctrine: Employers Beware, Retrieved on June 1, 2010, from Web site: http://www. bu. edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/scitech/volume6/ishman. pdf
Cite this page

Doctrine of Respondeat Superior. (2016, Sep 08). Retrieved from

Doctrine of Respondeat Superior

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