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Vicarious liability: Are you responsible for the actions of independent contractors?

by , 18 March 2014
Vicarious liability has to be the worst concept ever. It simply means you can be held liable for another person's wrongdoing even if you weren't at fault. This principle applies when it comes to your employees too. You're responsible for their actions. But are you vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors? Read on to find out...

Are you vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors?

The simple answer to this question is 'no'.

The Labour Law for Managers Loose Leaf Service explains that you're only vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of your employee.

You aren't vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors.

Here's an example that shows you aren't vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors

Let's say, you're an advertising company that employs an independent cameraman, Jake, to shoot an advert. The actress you use in the advertisement is injured while filming as she claims she tripped because Jake left the camera cable lying in the way.

She tries to sue you on the basis of vicarious liability because Jake was negligent.

She can't!

She doesn't have a claim against you on the basis of vicarious liability. Jake isn't your employee, he's an independent contractor you hired for a specific job.

You may recall that in terms of labour laws, a contractor is independent if he:

  • Has his own business;
  • Is free to provide services to any number of clients;
  • Doesn't depend upon your enterprise for his living;
  • Isn't paid for coming to work every day but only for results achieved; and
  • Isn't controlled and supervised by you in relation to his working hours and methods of work.

This definition in a way exempts you from being vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors.

So when can you be held vicariously liable?

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The following three requirements must be met before you might be vicariously liable for the wrongdoing of another person in the employment context:

1. The wrongdoer must be your employee.

2. Your employee's conduct must amount to an act that causes a loss.

3. Your employee must be acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time he commits the act.

Knowing whether or not you're vicariously liable for the actions of independent contractors will help ensure you safeguard your rights.



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