Responsibility for injuries arising out of the respondeat superior relationship

“The rule of respondeat superior is familiar and simply stated: an employer is vicariously liable for the torts of its employees committed within the scope of the employment. Equally well established, if somewhat surprising on first encounter, is the principle that an employee’s willful, malicious and even criminal torts may fall within the scope of his or her employment for purposes of respondeat superior, even though the employer has not authorized the employee to commit crimes or intentional torts.” (Lisa M. v. Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (1995) 12 Cal.4th 291, 296-297 [48 Cal.Rptr.2d 510, 907 P.2d 358], internal citations and footnote omitted.)

“Respondeat superior is based on a ‘deeply rooted sentiment’ that it would be unjust for an enterprise to disclaim responsibility for injuries occurring in the course of its characteristic activities.” (Mary M. v. City of Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 202, 208 [285 Cal.Rptr. 99, 814 P.2d 1341], internal citation omitted.)

The Supreme Court has articulated three reasons for applying the doctrine of respondeat superior: “(1) to prevent recurrence of the tortious conduct; (2) to give greater assurance of compensation for the victim; and (3) to ensure that the victim’s losses will be equitably borne by those who benefit from the enterprise that gave rise to the injury.” (Mary M., supra, 54 Cal.3d at p. 209.)

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