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Vicarious Liability

What is Vicarious Liability? 

Under vicarious liability, a party can be held indirectly responsible for an injury, even though they didn't cause it. California allows people who are vicariously liable to be legally responsible for a plaintiff's damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Vicariously liable parties may have more assets and insurance coverage than people who are directly negligent or reckless.


A party can only invoke the doctrine if he or she has a legal relationship with the person who caused the harm and can control at least some of that person's behavior.

Vicarious liability can apply in three common situations in California: Vicarious liability of an employer for its employees' actions (California's respondeat superior law), Parental liability for damages caused by children, and Criminal liability.


Vicarious Liability

Vicarious Liability

The law normally only holds people accountable for their own negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing. A person can be held liable for a personal injury in some cases if the law finds it fair to do so. Vicariously liable or indirectly liable are terms that describe this situation.

There is a vicarious liability when: One party has the right to control the actions of another (at least in part), and/or It is reasonable for the other party to assume the risks of the other's behavior according to public policy.

Vicarious liability arises most often in relationships between an employer and an employee, or between a principal and an agent.

Liable For The Acts Of Employees

Vicariously Liable For The Acts Of Employees

California's respondeat superior law allows employers to be held vicariously liable for their employee's negligence. Employers are liable if their employees act within the scope of their employment. In other words, the employee must be performing work that an employer might reasonably expect him or her to perform at his or her job - whether or not it is part of the employee's regular duties.

Employers may be directly liable for injuries under California's law on negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of employees if they knew or should have known that the employee posed a risk to others.

Agents, Partners Or Contractors

Agents, Partners Or Independent Contractors

It is also possible for principals to be held vicariously liable for the acts of their agents, partners, members of joint ventures, independent contractors (sometimes), and anyone performing non-delegable duties on their behalf.

For reasons of public safety, a non-delegable duty is any legal responsibility that cannot be delegated to someone else - for example, employers cannot delegate their obligation to keep their workplaces harassment-free. By law, they must ensure a harassment-free workplace. A company or individual (the "principal") is liable for the acts of its agents as long as they fall within the scope of their authority.

Parental Liability 

Parental Liability 

In California, parents can be held vicariously liable for damages caused by their children under 18 years of age. There are three general situations in which vicarious liability applies:

Whether the parent knew the child was dangerous or not, if a child engages in willful misconduct (regardless of whether the parent knew the child was dangerous or not), or if the parent knows a child is dangerous and fails to prevent an injury. When a parent allows their child to use a firearm resulting in an injury.

Co-Conspirator(S)’ Acts

Co-Conspirator(S)’ Acts

California law holds members of a conspiracy vicariously liable for the crimes committed by their co-conspirators. Co-conspirators should be tested to see whether their actions were: Foreseeable, and Committed in furtherance of the conspiracy's purpose.

In addition to (or instead of) criminal charges, some crimes may result in damages in a civil lawsuit in California. Assault, sexual assault, burglary, robbery, and manslaughter are some of the crimes in this category.

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