When Is an Employer Liable for the Actions of Their Employees?
Often times, the negligent actions of an employee may cause injuries to another individual. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior (or “let the master answer”), an injured party may pursue compensation from an employer for the injuries they sustained.
In the 2003 case of Carter v. Reynolds, the New Jersey Superior Court held “an employer can be found liable for the negligence of an employee causing injuries to third parties, if, at the time of the occurrence, the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment.” The Court based their decision on the theory that an employer who derives a benefit or advantage from the acts performed by their employee, must answer for the injuries or damages caused in the performance of those acts to a third person.
To be successful in a claim against an employer, several elements must be satisfied. First, there must be evidence that, at the time of the incident, an employer/employee relationship existed in which the employer had control over the employee’s actions. Next, the employee’s negligent actions must have occurred during the employee’s work shift. Lastly, the employee’s actions must have been executed within the scope of his/her employment.
The last element noted above is often the element where most litigation occurs. New Jersey follows the Restatement (Second) of Agency §228 when defining the term “scope of employment.” The definition reads:
“The conduct of a servant is within the scope of employment if, but only if (a) it is of the kind he is employed to perform; (b) it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits; (c) it is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the master, and; (d) if force is intentionally used by the servant against another, the use of force is not unexpected by the master.”
In determining whether an employee’s actions conform to the above definition, the court will look at factors such as:
- What work was the employee hired to perform?
- What job duties did the employer expect from the employee?
- What was the employee’s intent in performing the actions?
- What was the nature of the employee’s conduct?
- Was any personal activity involved?
- How much freedom was the employee given in their job duties?
- Where was the location of the acts?
Once the above factors have been met, an individual may bring suit against the employee, the employer, or both. In some cases, if just the employee is sued, they may seek indemnification from their employer if the conduct was within the course and scope of their employment.
The doctrine of respondeat superior is dense and these are just some of the issues the court will consider when determining who is liable for the negligent actions of an employee. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you determine which course of action is best for your recovery.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of another and are unsure of your right to sue, it is important to contact an experienced New Jersey personal injury attorney to review your legal rights and indicate possible remedies. The attorneys at the Rinaldo Law Group are skilled personal injury lawyers, who will fight for the compensation you and your family are entitled to receive. Please contact us today at 908-352-2500 to schedule a free initial consultation.