FAQ: What is Respondeat Superior?

Respondeat Superior applies liability to an employer for the actions of its employees in certain cases. Generally, the injury must have occurred “within the scope of employment”.

Specifically, the plaintiff must prove that the employee’s actions were:

  1. Within the general authority granted by the employer,
  2. In furtherance of the employer’s business, and 
  3. For the accomplishment of an object for which he is employed.

Buck v. Blum, 130 S.W.3d 285, 288 (Tex. App. 2004)

The Texas Supreme Court has found that certain actions would not generally fall under Respondent Superior:

“It is not ordinarily within the scope of a servant’s authority to commit an assault on a third person. . . . Usually assault is the expression of personal animosity and is not for the purpose of carrying out the employers business. [W]hen the servant turns aside, for however short a time, from the prosecution of the employers  work to engage in an affair wholly his own, he ceases to act for the employer, and the responsibility for that which he does in pursuing his own business or pleasure is upon him alone.”

Exceptions to this might include employment that could require the use of force, such as security guard or nightclub bouncer.

Generally, an employer is not liable for accidents that occur as an employee is driving to or from work. However, an employer will likely be liable when an employee is engaged in the act or furtherance of work.  For example, if an employee has stopped for breakfast and then takes a work call and is headed to a second job site and an accident happens, the employer will be liable.