Vicarious Liability (WA State)
Under WA State laws, how do courts generally address vicarious liability claims? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).
"Once an employee's underlying tort is established, the employer will be held vicariously liable if 'the employee was acting within the scope of his employment.'" Robel v. Roundup Corporation, 148 Wn.2d 35, 53 (Wash. 2002) (citing Dickinson v. Edwards, 105 Wn.2d 457, 469, 716 P.2d 814 (1986)).
DEFEATING A CLAIM
"An employer can defeat a claim of vicarious liability by showing that the employee's conduct was (1) 'intentional or criminal' and (2) 'outside the scope of employment.'" Id. (citing Niece v. Elmview Group Home, 131 Wn.2d 39, 56, 929 P.2d 420 (1997) (emphasis in original), quoted with approval in Snyder v. Med. Servs. Corp. of E. Wash., 145 Wn.2d 233, 242-43, 35 P.3d 1158 (2001)).
However, intentional or criminal conduct is not per se outside the cope of employment. Id. at 53. Moreover, it is not the case that an employer will be vicariously liable only where it has specifically authorized an employee to act in an intentionally harmful or negligent manner. See id.
THE PROPER INQUIRY
The proper vicarious liability inquiry is whether the employee was fulfilling his or her job functions at the time he or she engaged in the injurious conduct. See id. An employer may not insulate itself from vicarious liability merely by adopting a general policy proscribing bad behavior that would otherwise be actionable. Id.
If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group, PS; please see our DISCLAIMER.