Vicarious liability, or imputed liability, makes an individual liable for the actions of another person. This type of liability is usually applied to employee-employer relationships where an employer is responsible for its employee’s actions. The actions typically involve causing damage or injury to another person. In some situations, an employer may not be responsible for its employee’s actions when sued for a personal injury claim.
“Frolic” and “detour” are two categories of employee actions in a personal injury case. In both categories of actions, the employee if engaged in conduct that is outside the scope of their employment and is done for their own benefit. The employer may or may not be liable for the damage incurred depending on whether the employee’s actions are deemed to be a frolic or a detour.
A frolic happens when an employee, or agent, makes a serious departure from their employer’s, or principal’s, required service. For instance, an employee is supposed to deliver a package to a post office. During their trip, they drive to a grocery store and hit a pedestrian in the parking lot of the store. The trip to the store was so far outside of the employee’s scope of assigned duties that it constitutes a frolic. An employer is not liable for the employee’s actions during the frolic because it is not reasonably foreseeable to the employer that the employee would have been in the parking lot of the grocery store.
A detour occurs when an employee makes a minor departure from their employer’s charge. For instance, the employee is told to go to the post office to drop off a package. While at the post office, the employee goes to buy a birthday card and whacks another customer with their elbow while pulling the card out of the display carousel. Since the employee’s actions of getting a birthday card to buy at the same time as dropping off the package to be mailed was very minor, the action of getting the card would be considered a detour. The employer is liable for the employee’s actions during the detour because it is reasonably foreseeable to the employer that an employee may also purchase a personal item while at the post office.
A court will inquire whether or not the employee’s conduct was in the general nature of their employment or not, such as where the employee was supposed to be at the time of the accident. It also looks at the activity the employee was doing when the tortious conduct occurred.
The scope of employment is the extent of an employee’s actions as needed to fulfill their work duties. It requires an employee to act as expected during work per terms of their employment. This scope varies according to the responsibilities and duties of each job.
Yes. If you have been injured by a person who hurt you while they were working, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss vicarious liability and see if you are able to sue the person’s employer for your injury.