You may have heard that Tracy Morgan, the comedian, was in a bad car accident and suffered serious personal injury when his limo was rear ended by a truck. The truck was a Wal-Mart delivery truck, and the driver had been up for 24 hours before the accident. Lawyers for Tracy Morgan filed suit last week against Wal-Mart seeking damages for personal injury, loss of earnings, etc.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Wal-Mart itself did nothing wrong. Assume their policies are good and the driver violated the policies. If the driver of the truck was the one who was negligent, and Wal-Mart technically did nothing wrong, then how can Tracy Morgan sue Wal-Mart instead of the driver personally? The answer is a legal term called vicarious liability.
The basis of tort law is personal liability. You are responsible for your own actions. However, this would often mean that the victim of a bad car accident may not be properly compensated because the individual who committed the wrong act (the tort) had little or no insurance and little or no assets. Therefore, the idea of vicarious liability was born to provide larger source of funds when a company employees an individual who committed the tort. Vicarious liability means that a company is responsible for acts committed by it’s employees when the employee is acting within the scope of their employment.
As you might imagine, there are a lot of details and caveats contained in that last sentence above. But generally speaking, Wal-Mart is going to be responsible and liable for acts committed by its truck drivers when driving Wal-Mart trucks. That way it does not matter if the truck driver is broke and uninsured. Wal-Mart is certainly NOT broke and is heavily insured.
This provides Tracy Morgan a source of funds to compensate him for his personal injury.