Nature and operation of vicarious liability
Produced in partnership with Andrew Wilson

The following PI & Clinical Negligence practice note produced in partnership with Andrew Wilson provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Nature and operation of vicarious liability
  • Nature of vicarious liability
  • Imposition of vicarious liability
  • Relationship between employer and tortfeasor
  • Contrast with claims based on employer’s fault
  • Types of claim where vicarious liability may be used
  • Negligence
  • Breach of statutory duty
  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Assault

Nature and operation of vicarious liability

A personal injury claimant will typically be seeking to establish the fault, whether negligence or breach of a statutory duty, of the identified defendant (for instance the employer). However, an alternative route to liability may often be available—that of the vicarious liability of the employer for the act or omission of its employee or agent.

Nature of vicarious liability

Broadly, by virtue of the doctrine of vicarious liability an employer is liable for an employee’s negligent actions if they were committed in the course or scope of the employee’s employment or are closely connected with what the employee is authorised by the employer to do.

It is referred to as vicarious liability as the actual breach of duty is that of the employee. It is often said that the employer’s liability is strict; the employer is fixed with liability without any requirement of proof that there was any breach of duty on its part.

For vicarious liability to attach to the employer there must have been carelessness or fault on the part of the employee that would normally constitute actionable negligence or other tortious conduct. The claimant must, therefore, have a potential claim as against the employee who caused the accident.

The employee is the tortfeasor but the employer is liable for the employee’s negligent act or omission because it has entrusted the performance

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