Another employee of your paper mill, Hotspur, steals a shipment of wood pulp for your company to impress you with initiative to secure new resources for free. Unfortunately, he runs down a...

Another employee of your paper mill, Hotspur, steals a shipment of wood pulp for your company to impress you with initiative to secure new resources for free. Unfortunately, he runs down a pedestrian crossing properly in the crosswalk on his way back to your factory, injuring her. If the pedestrian sues your company can there be a recovery for they injury? Discuss your answer.

Asked on by berty63

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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By the way, that's a good name for a rogue employee--Shakespeare would approve.  There are essentially two situations in which a company is clearly responsible for the bad acts of an employee and a third circumstance that is not quite as clear.

First, companies whose employees hurt someone while acting within the scope of their duties are often held responsible for the hurtful act of an employee.  The legal term for this responsibility is respondeat superior, which simply means "the superior entity [that is, the company] must respond [be responsible for] its employee."  The key element of this is whether the employee is carrying out his or her duties.  In your scenario, the employee has apparently made a decision to impress the employer, without the employer's knowledge, and injured an innocent bystander in the commission of a crime.  Given these facts, a court would probably not hold the employee's employer responsible for the employee's actions.  A second related, but not so easily proven, scenario involves the atmosphere created by the company.  If someone could prove that the company encourages its employees to take risks--for example, "do whatever it takes to get the job done at the least cost to the company"--then the company's responsibility might become an issue.  In essence, the company would be guilty of creating an atmosphere that encouraged employees to accomplish tasks without regard to responsible behavior.

Lastly, a company might also be held responsible for an employee's bad acts if it were proven that the company hired an employee without sufficient background information to determine the employee's fitness for employment.  In other words, hiring someone carelessly is negligence, and being negligent in the hiring process would expose the employer to some responsibility in your scenario.  And if the employer has been negligent in its hiring of the employee, it would not matter whether the employee acted in accord with his or her job--both the company and the employee would bear the responsibility.

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