Vicarious liability is a legal principle that holds one party (such as an employer or principal) responsible for the actions or omissions of another party (such as an employee or agent). In other words, if an employee or agent commits a wrongful act or causes harm while carrying out their duties, the employer or principal may be held liable for the employee or agent’s actions. Vicarious liability is often invoked in cases where an employee or agent causes harm to a third party, such as in a car accident or medical malpractice case. In these cases, the injured party may seek to hold the employer or principal liable for the actions of the employee or agent, rather than just the individual who directly caused the harm.
Establishing Vicarious Liability
In Texas, vicarious liability is established by the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior,” which is Latin for “let the master answer.” Under this doctrine, an employer or principal can be held liable for the wrongful acts of an employee or agent if those acts were committed within the scope of the employee or agent’s employment or agency.
To establish vicarious liability under respondeat superior in Texas, the injured party must generally show three things:
- That an employment or agency relationship existed between the defendant and the person who committed the wrongful act;
- That the wrongful act was committed within the scope of the employment or agency; and
- That the wrongful act was a cause of the plaintiff’s injuries or damages.
Under Texas law, an employee’s wrongful act is considered within the scope of employment if it is the kind of act that the employee was hired to perform and if it occurred during the time and within the geographic boundaries of the employment. However, if the employee was acting outside the scope of their employment or agency at the time of the wrongful act, the employer or principal may not be held vicariously liable.