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Vicarious Liability in Florida: When are You Liable for Your Employee’s Actions?

On Behalf of | Dec 12, 2018 | Firm News |


It’s widely known that there are cases where you as the employer can be held responsible for your employee’s actions while they are on the clock. However, there may be select scenarios where you could be held liable even if the act happened outside of their normal job duties.

The legal theory of vicarious liability means an employer can be held responsible for the actions or negligent acts that are committed by someone else. In this case, it would be an employee. There are also scenarios where independent contractors and volunteers may be deemed employees for the purposes of vicarious liability.

It’s important to take proper precautions to minimize your company’s liability as much as possible. Liability laws can be complex and difficult to understand, especially in vicarious liability situations. Speaking with a knowledgeable West Palm Beach employment and labor law attorney who can explain the entire process can help to minimize your risk.

When is an Employer Liable for an Employee’s Actions?

As the employer, you can be held vicariously liable for your employee’s actions if the act was committed within the course and scope of their employment, or if it was outside the course of employment but furthered the employer’s interests or purpose.

Vicarious liability claims are common with auto accidents where the negligent driver was a commercial driver on duty at the time. If your delivery driver caused an accident on the way to a scheduled delivery, you could be liable for their actions. However, if they were already clocked out for the day and headed on a personal errand, the plaintiff would have a more difficult time holding you as the employer liable.

There are other situations where you may not realize the company could be liable. Perhaps you sent your secretary out to run a company errand, but this is not a normal component of his or her job duties. The company could still be liable for their negligence since they were on business for the company.

Negligent Hiring or Retention

Employers can also be held liable for the negligent hiring or retention of an employee. The main difference between the two is when you became aware of the employee’s unfitness. With negligent hiring, the plaintiff must show you were required to investigate the employee and failed to do so. The results of an investigation would’ve revealed the employee’s unsuitability, and it is deemed unreasonable that this person was hired. If you did the appropriate background and criminal checks, interviewed the employee, checked their driver’s license record, asked questions on the application, etc., then there is no presumption that you’re liable for negligent hiring.

With negligent retention, the plaintiff is required to show you became aware of the employee’s unsuitability, and you failed to take the appropriate action like investigating, terminating the employee, or reassigning them.

Retaining a Florida Employment and Labor Law Attorney

At Pincus & Currier LLP in West Palm Beach we represent employers against a number of torts, including workers’ compensation retaliation, unpaid wage claims, defamation, negligent hiring or retention, workplace discrimination, and more. Contact our office at 561-868-1340 to schedule a consultation.