IMPORTANCE AND JUSTIFICATIONS OF VICARIOUS LIABILITY AND THE CATEGORISATION OF VICARIOUS LIABILITY AS A STRICT OR FAULT BASED LIABILITY.

IMPORTANCE AND JUSTIFICATIONS OF VICARIOUS LIABILITY:

Vicarious liability is the liability by which the master is held liable for the wrongs committed by the servant. It is so because the employee is working necessarily for the master’s financial interest. The master is the one who authorises the servant to do certain job and the acts of the servant is considered to be the act of the master. If he were to incur responsibility for an act sanctioned by the employee and carried out in his benefit, it would be unfair to the employee.

Usually, it is the masters who have the deeper pockets. They have different resources by which they could meet the liability compared to the employee. People work under other people because they are in need of money and it won’t be fair if they have to pay for the damages for the small mistake they commit. The employer have the option of using the insurance that is in place for the business to meet unforeseeable expenses like these.

      In B. Govindarajulu v. M.L.A Govindaraja Mudaliar, a motor lorry was entrusted by its owners for repairs and it was involved in an accident when the employee of the shop took it for a drive to see what was wrong with the lorry.[1] The owner of the shop was held liable because of the relationship he possessed with the employee and because the act was done during the course of employment.

In Bower v. Peate[2], the defendant had employed a contractor to demolish his house. During the process of demolition, the adjoining house was damaged as a result of the work. The owner of the house was head liable for the damage to the other house.

In Mersey Docks & Harbour Board v. Coggins & Griffiths (Liverpool) Ltd[3], a crane with its driver was hired by the plaintiff. An accident took place because of the mistake of the driver and the defendant company was held responsible for the accident under vicarious liability.

In all these cases its quite clear that the employee had no intention to commit the crime, and the wrongful acts committed are by mistake. It would be grossly unfair if the employees have to pay for the damages that are caused because of small mistakes they commit while working for the profit of the employer. The concept of vicarious liability also induces the employer to take extra care about the functioning of their employees and so ensuring lesser accidents.

SHOULD VICARIOUS LIABILITY BE STRICT OR FAULT-BASED LIABILITY?

In most vicarious liability cases, the master is strictly liable for the deeds of his servant because the servant is said to be acting for the master and thus the acts of the servant is considered to be the acts of the master. But this has led to employers being responsible for silly negligence of the employees. This also makes the employee less vigilant and increases the chance of negligence to occur.

In Rajasthan State Road Corporation v. K.N. Kothari[4], the RSRTC hired a bus and a driver to operate on a particular route and a conductor was appointed to look after the bus. An accident was caused solely because of the driver’s negligence but still RSRTC was held responsible for the act of the driver.

In National Insurance Company, Kanpur v. Yogendra Nath[5], the owner of a car had given it to his servant and authorised him to look after it and keep it dusted while he was away. The servant drove the car one day and knocked down two pedestrians. The owner was held liable for the accident even though he did not authorise the servant to drive the car.

In Morris v. C.V. Martin &Sons Ltd[6] , the servant of the defendant stole a fur coat that was bailed at the defendants shop for cleaning. The owner was held liable for the act of the servant even though it was against the moral of employment and an illegal act.

In these cases, it’s quite clear that the servants were at fault and the owners had not authorised them to act in the way they did. It is unreasonable to blame the employer for the criminal actions done by the servants that the owners are not allowed to do.


[1] B. Govindarajulu v. M.L.A Govindaraja Mudaliar, AIR 1966 Mad. 322

[2] Bower v. Peate (1876) 1QBD 321

[3] Mersey Docks & Harbour Board v. Coggins & Griffiths (Liverpool) Ltd,(1946) 2 A11 ER 345 HL

[4] Rajasthan State Road Corporation v. K.N. Kothari, A.I.R. 1997 S.C 3444

[5] National Insurance Company, Kanpur v. Yogendra Nath, AIR 1982 A11. 38

[6] Morris v. C.V. Martin &Sons Ltd,(1966) 1 QB 716

Aishwarya Says:

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.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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