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What Is Vicarious Employer Liability in Florida?


Vicarious employer liability in Florida can hold an entity or business responsible for the actions of an employee while performing their job.

When examining if an employer is vicariously liable for an employee’s actions, the state follows the common law doctrine of respondeat superior. This theory of vicarious liability holds that an employer is responsible when the conduct at issue occurs within the scope of the employee’s job role.

When Is an Employer Responsible for Employee Actions?

The question of vicarious employer liability in Florida often arises in personal injury lawsuits involving negligence. If an employee’s actions on the job caused an injury to a third party, the victim can generally pursue legal action against their employer.

To successfully sue an employer for vicarious liability, the plaintiff must first establish that the party who caused the injury was an employee of the defendant. However, whether an individual qualifies as an employee is not always clear. For example, state courts generally hold that an employer is not vicariously liable for actions taken by independent contractors working for them.

The plaintiff must also show that the employee’s actions were the cause of their injuries, meaning a direct link exists between the allegedly negligent actions at issue and the harm suffered.

The Employee Must Have Acted Within the Scope of Job Role

To establish vicarious employer liability in Florida, the court will next ask if the employee was acting within the scope of their role at work. Questions of vicarious employer liability often hinge on whether the employee was on the clock and performing a task for the benefit of their employer.

For example, a court generally cannot hold an employer responsible if a negligent employee causes a car accident while commuting to get lunch during a work break. However, a truck delivery company is likely liable if an employee driver negligently causes a collision while making deliveries. The distinction is that driving is an essential function of making deliveries for their employer.

If an employer is found strictly liable, an injured party can pursue economic and non-economic damages against the entity. Economic damages consist of measurable costs, such as medical bills or lost salary, while non-economic damages include pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Employer’s Vicarious Liability Under the Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine

In addition to respondeat superior, Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine is another theory that can hold an employer vicariously liable for negligent actions by their employees. While the doctrine is often applied to lawsuits involving the operation of vehicles such as cars or trucks, it can also apply to equipment such as boats, aircrafts, and certain off-road vehicles.

The dangerous instrumentality theory holds the owner of a dangerous tool or instrument strictly liable if they allow someone to use the instrument who goes on to cause injuries to a third party. Dangerous instrumentalities are objects most likely expected to cause injury or death during their use.

The key question in cases involving dangerous instrumentalities is often determining who held title to the vehicle involved in the incident.

Contact a Florida Attorney for Cases Involving Vicarious Employer Liability

Cases revolving around the issue of an employer’s vicarious liability for negligent actions by their employees often involve questions of fact concerning the scope of the employee’s job role.

If an individual injured you while they were performing actions within the scope of their job, our legal professionals can determine whether you have a right to hold their employer vicariously liable for your injuries. Call Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon today to schedule a consultation.