Vicarious liability has been defined as the legal doctrine which assigns liability for an injury or damage to an individual who is not directly liable for the injury but instead has legal connection to the party responsible for the injury. It is a form of strict and secondary liability which comes up under the common law doctrine of agency which asserts that the superiors bear the responsibility for the actions of their subordinates.
In essence, vicarious liability implies taking legal responsibility for the actions of other individuals. According to Joseph Devine; “Vicarious liability is the legal concept which allows for one party to be held liable for injuries or damages sustained by another party, despite having had no active involvement in the incident” (Devine, 2010 para 1). This paper shall seek to analyze the concept of vicarious liability as it applies in the American legal system. Background:
Whereas common law concept regarding corporate criminality is not a new concept, the courts in the early 16th and 17th centuries continued to grapple with the complexities involved in bringing criminal charges against a fictional being. The common law had to expand its conception of moral laws to cater for mindless entities as potential violators meaning that criminal procedures had to be reconciled with the new requirements. However, in the United States it was not until 1909 that the Supreme Court extended the concept of corporate liability into the criminal arena (Carrasco and Dupee, 1999).
The concept of vicarious liability entails that legal liability is imposed on an individual for the negligence of another to whom the former has entrusted the performance of some task on their behalf. With this definition, employers, parents, organizations and companies find themselves being held responsible for the action of others whom they have delegated some responsibilities (Net Lawman Ltd, 2010). An incident of Vicarious Liability: A patient with a knee injury had visited a hospital in Illinois and attended to by anesthesiologist but ended up suffering a permanent spinal injury.
He was prompted to sue the anesthesiologist and the hospital based on the argument that though the anesthesiologist was an independent contractor, the hospital was to be held responsible for the injuries caused in reference to the theory of apparent authority. He won the case and was awarded more than $12. 5 million in compensation. The facts presented by the plaintiff included that the hospital never revealed to the plaintiff that the anesthesiologist was an independent contractor and not their employee.
The plaintiff had argued that when he was with the anesthesiologist, he wore either scrubs that were covered by the hospital’s logo or lab coats bearing the hospital’s emblem. There was also nothing in the treatment consent alerting the plaintiff was an independent contractor (Lawyers USA, 2006). Conclusion: From the facts of the case, the hospital was found liable for the injury caused by the contracted anesthesiologist as their defense that the plaintiff being a retired doctor had the responsibility to notice that the anesthesiologist was on contract and not an employee.
It was the jurisdiction of the hospital to provide complete care through the hospital’s staff and there was sufficient evidence that the hospital was responsible under the apparent agency doctrine. Vicarious liability has become common place in the world today. One will hear of an organization being sued for injuries and damages resulting from employee negligence, a hospital being sued for negligence on the part of the employees, and parents being sued for the injuries and damages caused by their children among other incidences.
Devine, J. , (2010). What is Vicarious Liability? Retrieved on 18th August 2010 from;http://ezinearticles. com/? What-is-Vicarious-Liability? &id=1932348. Carrasco, C. & Dupee, M. K. (1999). Corporate criminal liability. The American Criminal Law Review 36, (3), 445. Retrieved on August 17, 2009 from Proquest Lawyers USA (2006). Illinois Supreme Court rules hospital vicariously liable based on theory of apparent authority. St. Charles County Business Record. Wentzville, July 23, 2006, Pg. 1. Retrieved on August 17, 2009 from Proquest Net Lawman Ltd, (2010). Vicarious Liability. Retrieved on 18th August 2010 from; http://www. netlawman. com. au/info/vicarious-liability-australia. php.