There are a number of situations where employers in Florida can be held legally responsible for the damage caused by negligent employees – even if the employer didn’t directly cause the damage. This is what is referred to in civil injury law under the concepts of “vicarious liability” and “respondeat superior”. Essentially, it’s an imputed liability for the actions of a subordinate third party, typically an employee or child. It usually comes down to the level of control the supervisory party has over the negligent party.
Vicarious liability comes up a fair amount in Fort Myers car accidents that involve working drivers. Usually, a company isn’t responsible for crashes that occur during a worker’s commute to-and-from work. However, if the crash occurred while the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment (i.e., making a delivery, running a work errand, going from one job site to the other, etc.), the employer can be held vicariously liable. (Specifically with respect to employers, there is a legal doctrine known as “respondeat superior,” which is Latin for, “let the master answer.”)
Also in Florida, vehicle owners can be held vicariously liable without any need to prove direct negligence. That’s because long-standing legal precedent in Florida considers motor vehicles to be inherently dangerous instrumentalities. If a vehicle owner entrusts someone else to operate a vehicle they own, the owner can be held vicariously liable for the negligent operation of it that leads to someone else getting hurt. So, in Fort Myers car accidents that involve someone using a company vehicle – even if they weren’t technically on the job – the employer might be held legally responsible as the vehicle owner.
In a recent crash case before Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals, the question was whether claims of direct negligence against two supervisors of an allegedly negligent employee driver were valid. According to the written opinion in Jones v. Vasilias et al., the underlying action arose from injuries sustained by the plaintiff when he was riding his bicycle along a busy street in front of an auto dealership in Palm Beach County. Just as he passed the driveway, an employee of the dealership was leaving in a van to make a delivery. The two collided. Continue reading