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RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR

Lat.: let the superior reply. This doctrine is invoked when there is a master-servant relationship between two parties. The premise is that when an employer (master) is acting through the facility of an employee or agent (servant), and tort liability is incurred during the course of this agency because of some fault of the agent, then the employer or master must accept the responsibility. Implicit is the common law notion that everyone must conduct his or her affairs without injuring another, whether or not he or she employs agents or servants. See scope of employment. Compare vicarious liabilty. EXAMPLE: A truck driver employed by a manufacturing company causes an accident while delivering a shipment to a buyer. The doctrine of respondeat superior allows the victims to sue the company for any injuries caused by the driver. Under normal principles of tort responsibility, the driver can also be sued. Since it is unlikely that he has the money to pay a damage award, the doctrine acts to assure that the victims will be paid the full amount of the award because the company by law will be required to carry adequate insurance or have sufficient assets for such contingencies. Absent this doctrine, companies would be able to hire judgment-proof drivers and in that fashion avoid all liability for injuries caused by such drivers. Source: Barron's Dictionary of Legal Terms, Steven H. Gifis, 5th Edition; © 2016

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