Respondeat Superior Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Respondeat Superior, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Respondeat Superior?

(n) Doctrine of Respondent superior implies the responsibility of the superiors on the actions done by their employees, agents, subordinates etc when they are doing such actions during their assigned duties. So when an accident happens while handling an explosive involved in the work assigned to such person, The master is responsible for such loss. The Latin word (rehs-pond-dee-at superior) means ‘let the master answer’

History and Meaning of Respondeat Superior

Respondeat Superior is a legal term of Latin origin that means "let the master answer." This is a doctrine that holds employers responsible for the acts of their employees or agents who are acting within the scope of their employment or agency. The basic idea is that if an employee causes harm to someone while on the job, the employer should be held liable for the employee's actions.

The origins of the doctrine can be traced back to English common law, where it was used to hold masters responsible for the torts committed by their servants. The doctrine was eventually adopted into American law and is now a fundamental principle of tort law.

Examples of Respondeat Superior

  1. An employee driving a company car causes an accident while on the job. The injured party could sue not only the employee but also the employer under the doctrine of Respondeat Superior.
  2. A nurse administers the wrong medication to a patient while working at a hospital. The hospital could be held liable for the nurse's mistake under Respondeat Superior.
  3. A contractor working on behalf of a company causes damage to someone's property while performing a job. The company could be held responsible for the contractor's actions under Respondeat Superior.

Legal Terms Similar to Respondeat Superior

  1. Vicarious Liability: The idea that one person can be held responsible for the actions of another person.
  2. Agency Law: The body of law that governs relationships between principals (such as employers) and their agents (such as employees).
  3. Master-servant Doctrine: An older term for Respondeat Superior that emphasizes the relationship between an employer and employee.