Vicarious liability, or derivative liability more generally, is a legal doctrine that assigns liability for an injury to a person who did not cause the injury directly but who has a particular legal relationship to the person who committed the negligent act.  The most common examples of this type of liability are when a parent is held responsible for the acts of a child; an employer is held responsible for acts of the employee; or the owner of a vehicle is held responsible for the acts of the driver. Such relationships go by various names, but courts most commonly refer to such relationships as some form of "agency."

In the employment context, issues can be divided by the type of agent. At the most basic level there are three subtypes of agents, or levels of agency, in the employment context: independent contractors, employees, and officers/executives. All do work on behalf of the business organization, but as you move from independent contractor, the independence of the agent is diminished and the control of the business increases. In almost all business-related decisions, the conduct of an executive is directly attributable to the business itself and liability for that conduct is therefore most easily attached to the business. As independent contractors have the most control and discretion over their own conduct, their actions are least likely to cause liability to attach to the business.

The general rule for all types of agents is that, where a servant is acting primarily on behalf of their master in the scope of their master/servant relationship, vicarious liability may attach. See e.g. Gackstetter v. Dart Transit Co., 269 Minn. 146, 150, 130 N.W.2d 326, 329 (1964). Where the conduct is primarily personal, liability may not attach.

Somewhat distinct from basic vicarious liability, but still under the derivative liability umbrella, Minnesota recognizes at least three other means to hold employers liable for the conduct of its agents. These are Negligent Entrustment; Negligent Retention/Hiring; and Negligent Supervision. Minnesota does not recognize a cause of action for negligent training. See Johnson v. Peterson, 734 N.W.2d 275, 277 (Minn. Ct. App. 2007).

If your agent has caused harm to a third party or another agent, you should discuss possible solutions and defenses with an attorney at WLG.