If you are a business owner, or an employee of a business, these issues could impact you very differently. Most of us are either on one side of this equation or the other. Regardless of which side you’re on, the concept of vicarious liability is worth understanding.
What is Vicarious Liability?
Florida law dictates that an employer can be held responsible for an employee’s tort – negligent wrongdoing – occurs within the scope of that person’s employment. There could also be an issue as to whether the individual in question is an actual employee or an independent contractor. That is a blog for another day!
For instance, let’s say a truck driver is texting and driving while he is en route to a delivery that he is making for his employer. While he is driving that vehicle negligently, he strikes a pedestrian and seriously harms them. In this situation, it is very likely that the employer can be held vicariously liable for the actions of his or her negligent driver.
Now, the law does consider what is and is not with the “scope of employment.” This is a concept that often gets litigated in court. So much so that the court system has broken down the issue into employees either taking a “frolic” or a “detour” from the scope of their employment.
Consider a detour. You’re not really leaving your scope of employment, but you’re just taking a slightly different path. A good example of a detour is if that same trucker pulled off on a side street to get gasoline for his truck that wouldn’t fit into a gas station that was on the route. This doesn’t fall squarely into the “scope of employment,” but surely this minor detour to get some gas would be understandable as part of his or her job.
Now, a detour, on the other hand, is something that is clearly outside of the “scope of employment.” Think about deviating from your path – that means you are no longer on it altogether. This same trucker, rather than getting gas, drives a mile and half off of his or her designated route to go see their significant other. This is now a deviation from the trucker’s scope of employment.
If the trucker commits a negligent act while on a frolic from the scope of employment, the employer can still be found vicariously liable for the employee’s tortious activities. However, if the same negligent activity occurs on that trucker’s detour, the employer will not be found vicariously liable for the behavior of the employee because it was not within the scope of employment.
We Can Help
If you have an issue such as this, or any other issue related to your employment or business, our team of attorneys at the Lopez Law Group look forward to speaking with you.
1. The Supreme Court of Florida echoed the Restatement Second’s test for determining whether one is an employee or independent contractor in Cantor v. Cochran, 184 So.2d 173 (Fla. 1966).
2. “An employee acts within the scope of his employment only if his act is of the kind he is employed to perform, it occurs substantially within the time and space limits of employment and it is activated at least in part by a purpose to serve the master…” Morrison Motor Co. v. Manheim Services Corp., 346 So.2d 102, 104 (Fla. 2d DCA 1977)