Explain the principle of vicarious liability

Vicarious liability is the liability of one person for the torts committed by another person by virtue of their relationship. The concept of vicarious liability is founded on the fact that employees are usually people of meager means and it is therefore only fair that the injured person is allowed to recover damages from the employer. Thus where there is a relationship of master and servant, the former is always liable for torts of the servant if committed in the course of employment even without his express approval. But the master is not liable for torts committed beyond the scope of employment unless he has expressly authorized such acts or subsequently ratifies them.

For the master to be held vicariously liable the plaintiff must establish that:
• There was a master and servant relationship between the parties i.e a contract of service between them.
• The tort was committed by the servant in the course of his employment. For example in Lister V. Romford Ice and Cold Storage Ltd.

The employer is liable notwithstanding the fact that the employee was acting negligently, criminally, deliberately wantonly or for his own benefit.

However, the employer is not liable for torts committed by the employee while engaged on a
“frolic of his own.” As was the case in Beard V. London General Omnibus.

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