vicarious liability

As a general rule, if a person commits a wrong, he is liable for it himself. However, there lie exceptions to this rule and one may be held liable for torts committed by others. One may be held liable for the acts of others even though he may be free from personal blame of faults, because of some legally relevant relationship between the two. This form of liability is known as Vicarious Liability, which means the liability of a person for someone else’s tort in which he played no role. Vicarious’ is derived from Latin term ‘vice’ i.e., in the place of. The expression “Vicarious Liability” signifies the liability which A may incur to C for damage caused to C by the negligence or other tort of B.

The concept of Vicarious Liability is based on two Principles :-

  1. Respondeat Superior – It is a Latin term with the literal meaning – ‘Let the master answer or Let the principal be held responsible.’ It means that a party is vicariously responsible for the acts of his agent.
  2. Quit facit per alium, facit per se – The maxim plainly means – He who does an act through another is deemed to do it himself.

There are several reasons for the justification of imposition of Vicarious Liability :-

  1. The master has the deepest profits and he is anyways wealthier than his employee.
  2. Vicarious liability encourages accident prevention by giving the employer a financial

interest in encouraging his employees to take care for the safety of others.

  1. As the employer makes a profit from the activity of his employees, he should also

bear any losses that those activities lead to.

They are various relationships which satisfy the requirement of Vicarious liability, like Master-Servant Relationship, Principal Agent Relationship, Owner and Independent Contractor, Guardian and ward, Company and its Directors and Liability of Partners for each other’s Torts. It was held in Farewell v. Boston and Worcester Rly. Co., ‘ This rule is obviously founded on the great principle of social duty, that every man, in the management of his own affairs, whether by himself or by his agents or servants, shall so conduct them as not to injure another; and if he does not, and another thereby sustains damage, he shall answer for it.’

Principle Agent Relationship

Vicarious liability applies to the principle and he may be held liable to third parties for the acts of his agents. Dal Pont has identified three reasons underlying the imposition of liability on a principal for the tortuous acts of his or her agent.

  1. The principal chooses the agent and can ascertain his strength and weakness.
  2. The principle as he has delegated his authorities to the agent and therefore, he would be deriving the benefits out of his acts and therefore, he must be held liable to bear the losses of the same, if any.
  3. Thirdly, the principal has given the agent general authority to commit the wrongs.


Partners in a firm are vicariously liable for the acts of other partners. Section 18 of the Partnership act makes a partner the agent of the firm for the purposes of the business of the firm. This bestows upon the partner all the responsibilities and liabilities of an agent. Every partner is liable jointly as well as severally for all the acts of the firm done while he is a partner. Section 27 lays down that, Where, by the wrongful act or omission of a partner acting in the ordinary course of the business of a firm or with the authority of his partners, loss or injury is caused to any third party, or any penalty is incurred, the firm is liable therefor to the same extent as the partner.

Husband and Wife Relationship

In common law husband wife tortuous relationship in the cases of vicarious liability was not recognised. This rule was based on the doctrine that the husband and wife were one legal person, and that person was the husband. The immunity rule does not negate the fact that the wife was injured by her husband when he was acting for his employer. It should not serve to relieve the employer of his legal responsibility.

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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