Massachusetts Court Discusses Vicarious Liability

In most instances, parties will not be held responsible for the acts of other individuals. There are exceptions, though, that would allow for the imposition of vicarious liability. For example, employers may be held accountable for the negligent acts of their employees if they occurred while the employee was working. Typically, vicarious liability does not allow for the imposition of fault for the acts of an independent contractor, though, as discussed in a recent opinion issued by a Massachusetts court. If you sustained injuries in an accident caused by another party, you might be owed damages, and it is advisable to consult a Cape Cod personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Subject Accident

Allegedly, the defendant driver was an independent contractor working for the defendant corporation. After the defendant driver completed a contract for the defendant corporation, he was on his way to pick up a load for another corporation when he ran a red light and struck the decedent’s vehicle. The decedent died from the injuries he sustained in the accident two days later.

It is reported that the plaintiff, the administrator of the decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit against the defendants, alleging that the defendant driver was directly liable and the defendant corporation was vicariously liable for the decedent’s death. The defendant corporation moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion. The plaintiff then filed an appeal.

Vicarious Liability for the Acts of Independent Contractors

The appellate court noted that the plaintiff’s claims relied on numerous assumptions, including the position that the Massachusetts courts would impose liability on employers for physical harm caused by their failure to hire careful and competent contractors to perform duties on their behalf and that such liability would extend past the period of the contractual relationship.

The court noted, however, that the plaintiff failed to offer any case law in support of his position. As such, the court found no reason to impose common law liability on the defendant corporation for the acts of the defendant driver. The court explained that under Massachusetts law, duties imposed pursuant to a contract are limited to obligations under the agreement. Accordingly, once the defendant driver’s contract with the defendant corporation ended, neither party owed one another any duties.

Finally, the court noted that even if it assumed for the sake of argument that the defendant corporation was the statutory employer of the defendant driver, it would not be held accountable for acts engaged in after the employee-employer relationship ended. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted Cape Cod Attorney

If a person causes a car accident while they are working, their employer may be deemed vicariously liable for any injuries they cause. If you were hurt in a collision, it is smart to speak to an attorney to evaluate what compensation you may be owed. The trusted personal injury lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and help you to pursue the maximum damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us via our online form or by calling us at 888-262-6664 to set up a meeting.

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