Beyond Master-Servant: A Critique of Vicarious Liability
EXPLORING TORT LAW, Stuart Madden, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2005
31 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2004 Last revised: 9 Jun 2008
In order to regulate risk taking efficiently, tort liability rules governing organizations' liability for torts by their agents should ensure that organizations both want their agents to take optimal precautions and benefit from using cost-effective mechanisms to regulate agents. This chapter shows that vicarious liability, the current rule governing organizations' liability for their agents' torts, does not satisfy these objectives. By holding organizations liable for torts committed by employees, but not by independent contractors, vicarious liability discourages organizations from asserting direct control over agents, even when control is an efficient way to regulate care. Organizations governed by vicarious liability also may not attempt to induce efficient care-taking by independent contractors because organizations often do not maximize profits by inducing efficient care. Indeed, vicarious liability encourages organizations to undermine the effect of individual tort liability by hiring judgment-proof independent contractors.
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