While the use of Latin has become a dying language, there are few words and phrases that have stood the test of time and made their way into common vernacular. These words are often associated with legal concepts that remain in full force long after their first utterance. One of the more popular Latin phrases that has a legal connotation is respondeat superior. The literal translation of this phrase is, “let the master answer.” Respondeat Superior is legal term of art that generally means that an employer should be responsible for the acts of his or her employee. This concept arises mostly in the world of agency and tort law.
Massachusetts courts have held that, “[C]onduct of an agent is within the scope of employment if it is of the kind he is employed to perform …; if it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits …; and if it is motivated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer…. The fact that the predominant motive of the agent is to benefit himself does not prevent the act from coming within the scope of employment as long as the act is otherwise within the purview of his authority.” Wang Labs., Inc. v. Business Incentives, Inc., 398 Mass. 854, 859–860, 501 N.E.2d 1163 (1986).
Respondeat Superior is most often used when an injured person seeks to recover damages for the negligence of an employee from the employer. The injured party must first prove that he or she sustained personal injury or property damage due to negligence, that the tortfeasor was an actual employee of the defendant-employer, and that the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time of the injury. Continue reading →