Agency, Pluricorporality, and Respondeat Superior
6 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2019
Date Written: August 1, 2019
Initial disclaimer: This is a thought piece regarding the origins of respondeat superior liability. It is intentionally lightly sourced because while my thoughts on this issue were almost certainly influenced by other scholars, I attempted to construct this model solely from my own thoughts and reflections. In other words, I did not look at any other work while I was constructing it, so any similarities to other scholarship is the result of the impact that scholarship had on my thinking, over time, not that I used that scholarship to craft this. In the [likely] event that I expand on this in the future, I will (of course) provide proper attribution for those prior works, once I have identified them.
This short essay attempts to provide an economic rationale for the law of agency and, by so doing, an economic and moral justification for respondeat superior liability. Smithian principles of specialization and trade require some legal doctrines for allowing productive individuals to be in more than one place at a time, through agents, a principle I refer to as pluricorporality. Obtaining the benefits of pluricorporality requires accepting the costs, including tort liability, when the principal acts through the medium of an agent.
Keywords: vicarious liability, principal-agent, agency
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