Vicarious Liability: Meaning and Significance

The majority of responsibility for the acts taken by employees while discharging their jobs rests with them. A fault-based culpability paradigm is stressed in this strict liability paradigm. In this case, a victimless person is compensating for the losses of others, which is unfair.

What is Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability focuses on interactions between master and servant. It says that it is based on two proverbs from Latin. A person who does an act through another person is legally regarded as having performed the act themselves, according to the qui facit per se and alium facit per se concepts. The respondent's superior claims that a principle is to blame for his subordinate's actions.

Evaluation of Vicarious Liability

In general, a person is only accountable for his own improper conduct and has no responsibility for the wrongdoings of others. However, there are rare situations when vicarious liability—or one person's culpability for another person's action—can exist.

Additionally, there must be a particular relationship between the parties and the wrongdoing must be connected to that relationship in order for there to be guilt.

It will essentially talk about the interaction between a servant and an independent contractor.

Vicarious Liability Causes

Vicarious responsibility can come from this kind of action for a number of reasons, including −

There are various terms like "principal" and "agent" that are stated in the Indian Contract Act, however there are no regulations addressing vicarious liability. There are several parts that cover these clauses. Sections 182 to 238 of the Indian Contract Act are in issue. A person is not permitted to act as an agent under Section 183 unless they have attained the age of majority and are of sound mind. Lord Chelmsford asserts that it is established by law that a master is liable to third parties for any harm or loss brought about by a servant behaving carelessly or negligently while working for his master. The explanation is that every action taken by a servant while performing his duties is considered to have been ordered by his master, and as a result, it is treated the same as if it were the master's action.

The Contract Act states that it is the principal's responsibility to determine whether or not an action taken by their agent falls within the bounds of a principal-agent relationship. He will be held accountable for the actions or wrongdoings committed by his agent if he is unable to prove vicarious culpability. This concept is made reasonable by some case laws.

In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Smt. Shekhu and others, the deceased was riding a bicycle with his brother when the district collector's jeep rushed up from the opposite side and ran into them, killing them. In this case, the court explicitly stated that "vicarious liability" refers to the situation where one person fulfills or satisfies the obligations of another. It speaks of one's accountability for another person's tort in which he had no involvement. The court additionally decided that a car owner would be liable for an accident that a servant caused while working for him.

A State's Position of Vicarious Liability

According to vicarious liability, in a master-servant relationship, the master is liable for any wrongdoing carried out by the servant. A reputable government is referred to as a "state." It is obvious that the state has joint and several liabilities for the actions of the individuals. In India, unlike the Crown Proceedings Act of 1947, there are no statutory provisions that address the responsibility of the state (England). According to Article 300 of the Indian Constitution, both the Union of India and the states are subject to legal action. However, it is not stated under what circumstances that is feasible. A series of High Court and Supreme Court rulings, however, seem to indicate that courts only hold the state responsible for wrongs committed by its agents while carrying out non-sovereign duties.


The well-known legal principle of qui facit per se and alium facit per se can be used to understand the vicarious liability rule. Therefore, all careless acts committed by the employees while on the job would be held against the master. However, if a person is an independent contractor, that is, if they work for another person but are not directly employed by them, they are not liable for the wrongdoing of the contractor.

Since it is based on the principal-agent principle, it is argued that the agent should not do anything wrong that subjects the principal to liability. Even the principal needs to remember that the agent doesn't do anything improper. Because of this, employers enforce tight codes of conduct to ensure that situations like this don't happen frequently.

In addition to this notion, the vicarious liability of the state discusses whether or not the state is accountable for the wrongdoing of its employees. The scenarios mentioned above demonstrate this situation. The state is only held accountable for the actions or inactions of statutory authorities when they breach the law while acting within the bounds of the legal authority that has been granted to them and when the violation transcends any statutory protection afforded by such enactments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the most typical instance of being vicariously liable?

Ans. Employer-employee relationships are perhaps where vicarious liability occurs most frequently. The phrase "respondeat superior" describes it. If an employee engages in illegal behavior while doing their job duties, the employer may be held accountable. The Exxon Valdez oil disaster is an excellent illustration.

Q2. What three components make up vicarious liability?

Ans. Relationships between the employer and the employee, tortious acts of carelessness committed, and employment-related circumstances are the three primary factors that need to be identified and taken into account.

Updated on: 13-Mar-2023


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