Facts: Vinny was employed as a grocery clerk in the grocery store of Oscar, his employer. The incident happened during store hours when a customer in the grocery store was about to deliver a baby. Vinny in an effort to help the customer allowed the customer to go inside the delivery truck and the customer to the hospital. While they were on their way to the hospital, Vinny run over the dog of Melnick. Melnick declared that he will file a suit against Oscar and Vinny for killing his dog.
Issue: whether the conduct of Vinny was done within the scope of his employment so as to make Oscar liable for the accident under the principle of respondeat superior
A. Delivery Case Plaintiff
As a rule no person should be held liable for the acts and omissions of another. In some cases, however, the principle of agency between an employer and his employee may create legal liability known as respondeat superior. It is a common law principle which basically means “Let the master answer.” It makes the employer liable for the negligent acts and omission of his employee which have caused injury to another provided that the act was done within the scope of his employment. The theory behind this common law principle is that the principal controls the behavior of his agent and should assume responsibility and liability for the agent’s actions.
The plaintiff only has to prove that the conduct falls within the scope of the employee’s employment to establish liability of the employer. An employee’s conduct is covered if it is of the kind he is employed to perform, occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits of the employment, and is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer.
In this case, Vinny was at the time on shift and he was in the performance of his duties. He was inside the grocery store when a customer was about to give birth. Being in the service industry it was part of his duty to extend the necessary assistance to their customer. His act of going to the hospital using the company truck was something that is fairly and naturally incident to the business of his employer. (Sayles v. Piccadilly) Further the conduct of vinny was not something that promoted his own interest but it was motivated by the desire to serve his employer.
B. Delivery Case: Defendant
For an employer to be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, it must first be proven that the employee conduct bears relationship to the nature of his work. In determining whether an employee was acting within the scope of employment, the employee’s job description, time and place and purpose of the employee’s act, the conformity of the employee’s act to his assigned task must be examined.
As a grocery clerk, Vinny’s function is to assist the customers locate the items they intend to purchase, to help in the packing of the items purchased by the customers and to answer their queries about a particular item in the grocery. Nowhere did it say in the employee manual that part of the function of the grocery clerk is to send women who are delivering babies to the hospital. Vinny performed something that he was not supposed to do at the time and place of the accident.
The employee did not even inform the store manager, Oscar, that he will be leaving the grocery. Indeed there was a substantial departure from the nature of the work Vinny was hired to do. Thus, the liability for the injury he caused to Melnick is his own responsibility and should not be imputed to his employer.