That wrongdoers should be liable for their own actions is a fundamental principle on which the law of tort is based. Critically analyze how to concept of vicarious liability might seem to contradict this principle and explain why.
The law of tort is based on the principle that tortfeasor should be held liable for their own acts that caused harm to another. However, Vicarious Liability contradicts this principle, they hold another person liable for the acts that the tortfeasor has done, even though he may not even know that act has been done. This seems to be very unfair but in reality there are a few reasons why this is necessary.
For someone to be vicariously liable for the acts of another there must be a relationship between both parties- this justifies giving the latter responsibility for the acts of the former. In order to decide whether vicarious liability applies in a particular situation, the cout would have to address two questions: was the person who committed the tort an employee of the defendant and was the tort committed in the course of that person’s employment? If this two conditions are satisfied only can another person be held jointly liable for the acts of another.
In the case of Ready Mixer Concrete v Minister of Pensions, the claimants were lorry drivers who did work for the defendants manufacturing company. They use lorries which had the company’s logo, had to wear the company’s uniform and paint their lorries with its colors and logo. They were held to be small business man and not the company’s employees as they were not guaranteed any work from the employers and maintained their own lorries. Hence, a person can only be liable for the actions committed by another if a relationship is established.
To be considered an employee, there are a few criterion to satisfy. In some cases a written agreement may be established which states that the other person is Not an employee but this is by no means decisive, the courts would take into account other factors.
- The person must be willing to provide services in exchange for payment
- He or she must agree to be subject to the employers control
- The other terms of the contract are one that is consistent with the existence contract of services.