Respondeat superior under the law means that an employer is liable for
harm done by its employees. The theory behind respondeat superior is that
employers have control over the actions of their employees and receive
a benefit from actions done by their employees in the course and scope
of employment. Employers are therefore also responsible for any harm done
by their employees who are acting within the course and scope of employment.
This theory has very practical consequences. For instance, this theory
typically arises in circumstances where a third party is injured in an
automobile accident caused by an employee. If the employee does not have enough assets or
insurance to completely cover the third party’s injuries, the injured
party may seek to hold the employer vicariously liable. If the employer
has more insurance coverage or assets that would more fully compensate
the injured person, then the theory of respondeat superior can be a useful tool.
The question then arises as to what activity by an employee falls within
the course and scope of employment. This is a factual question that must
be decided by the fact finder, based upon the specific facts of each case.
While there is no hard and fast definition of the course and scope of
employment, we can look to previous decisions to help guide our analysis.
Colorado courts have found that these actions are within the course and
scope of employment:
An employee “engaged in the work which has been assigned to him by
his employer or . . . doing what is necessarily incidental to the work
which has been assigned to him or which is customary within the business
in which the employee is engaged.”
Huddleston v. Union Rural Elec. Ass’n, 841 P.2d 282, 292 (Colo. 1992) (citing
Destefano v. Grabrian, 763 P.2d 275, 286 (Colo. 1988)).
A bus driver working for a private contractor.
Perkins v. Regional Transp. Dist., 907 P.2d 672 (Colo. Ct. App. 1995).
While these actions are not within the course and scope of employment:
An employee driving his personal vehicle home after work.
Raleigh v. Performance Plumbing & Heating, Inc., 130 P.3d 1011 (Colo. 2006).
An employee of a ski area operator. C.R.S. § 33-44-112;
Johnson v. Bodenhausen, 835 F. Supp. 2d 1092 (D. Colo. 2011).
If you believe you have a claim under respondeat superior, or have questions
related to this theory,
contact our attorneys today to discuss the facts of your case.