What is Respondeat Superior?

What is Respondeat Superior?

The legal world is known to use words and phrases that are not often utilized in day-to-day vernacular. In turn, the use of these uncommon phrases and terms can often complicate matters for a lay individual with no legal training. The purpose of this blog is to familiarize you with a Latin term that is used often in the legal profession: respondeat superior.

To start, what is respondeat superior? Respondeat superior is a Latin term that means “let the master answer” or “that the master must answer.” Put another way, respondeat superior is “[a] legal doctrine, most commonly used in tort, that holds an employer or principal legally responsible for the wrongful acts of an employee or agent, if such acts occur within the scope of the employment or agency.” As one can tell, respondeat superior is a method to hold an employer of an employee accountable for the employee’s actions when the employee is within the scope of his or her employment/agency.

Now, as you can imagine, often legal battle arises in the area on a couple fronts when trying to hold an employer liable for its employee’s actions. To name a couple, employers sometimes take the position and argue that the wrongdoer was not actually an employee or agent of the business. Also, employers argue that the wrongful conduct of the employee or agent did not happen within the course and scope of the employee’s or agent’s employment/agency. The strength of these arguments are dependent on the facts of a particular circumstance.

The legal doctrine of respondeat superior can come into play in a variety of different types of cases, but for the purpose of this blog, let us consider a trucking collision. When a negligent commercial motor vehicle collides into a motor vehicle on the roadway, the truck driver can be negligent/careless/reckless and because the commercial motor vehicle driver was acting within the scope and course of his employment with his employer/principal, the employer/principal is vicariously liable for the injuries and damages caused by the negligent/careless/reckless commercial vehicle driver. Further, the employer/principal can also be at fault for its inadequate educating, training and supervisions of its driver, amongst other shortcomings.

As such, the concept of respondeat superior can potentially come into play and impact a particular case. As indicated, respondeat superior comes into consideration frequently in personal injury matters. Now, when you hear the phrase respondeat superior you will have understanding to what it means and the possible ramifications.