Respondeat Superior

Let the principal be held responsible.

Meaning of the legal term: A person who gets his work done through another is liable for all the

consequences from that act.

The Doctrine of Respondeat Superior is the doctrine of vicarious liability.

It simply means that, the principal or the master is liable for the torts and frauds committed by

his agent or servant during the course of his employment.

The vicarious liability arises in the following cases:

1. Master and Servant: A master is liable for the acts done by his servant which he does

in the course of his employment.

2. Principal and Agent: Principal engages the agent to act on his behalf which creates a

relationship between them and since the principal put the agent in a situation where a tort

is committed, the principal is held liable for the acts of his agent.

3. Firm and its partners: In a partnership firm each partner acts on behalf of the other

partner or on behalf of the firm. Hence, a firm is liable for the act committed by its


However, where the act done by the servant or the agent is his private work and is not

connected with master’s work, it will be considered as outside the course of the employment

and the master will not be liable for it.

Case Law:

In whatman v. Pearson case, a carter was incharge of a horse and cart throughout the day.

Without permission of the master he drove them home ½ mile out of his way for his mid day

dinner and left the horse unattended outside his home. His employer was held liable for the

damage done by the horse when it ran away.

credit: Megha Balakrishna Kotian

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