Legal claims that derive from a situation where there are claims of negligence can sometimes involve an entity other than the neglectful parties. In certain circumstances employers are fully responsible for their employees, and the tasks they perform during working hours. During the course of this paper, the doctrine of respondeat superior will be defined and explained. Two case studies in which the doctrine was applied will also be analyzed to determine if it was applied correctly.
Respondeat superior is a legal theory that holds employers responsible for any negligent or harmful act performed by an employee during the commission of their employment duties (Thornton, 2010). The Maryland Supreme Court in 1951 was the first court to utilize respondeat superior in a court case involving a question of employer liability (Burns, 2011). This doctrine is important as it holds employers liable in court cases where one of its employees does harm to an individual. Vicarious liability and indirect liability are two base concepts that make-up respondeat superior (Thornton, 2010). Respondeat superior shows that the employer did not have to be responsible for the employee???s negligent behavior, in the form of improper training or instruction to perform harmful acts, in order for the employer to be held legally responsible.
In the case of Valle v. City of Houston, the police force was sued for excessive force and an illegal search in an attempt to remove an individual from his parent???s home (Nicholl & Kelly, 2012). The situation stemmed from a man, Omar Esparza, barricading himself in his parent???s home and refusing to come out (p. 285). After a long police standoff, the SWAT team was ordered to forcefully enter the home and remove Mr. Esparza (p. 285). The SWAT team utilized taser gun and bean bag ammunition in an attempt to subdue Mr. Esparza after they felt he posed a physical threat by wielding a hammer, but as those attempts failed the suspect was fatally wounded when an officer fired his weapon (p. 286). Shortly after the incident the mother was allowed into the home, and she reported no visible evidence that her son was possession of a hammer (p. 286). The court found that the city was not liable for damages under the theory of respondeat superior, because the order to remove the individual from the home was not made by an individual deemed as a decision-maker by the city (p. 286).
From the outside, this case seems to fit the theory of respondeat superior. As the employer, the city should be held responsible for the actions of its employees. The police, serving as the city???s employees acted in a manner that was unnecessary for the situation and in conflict of their training (p. 286). However, the court sided with the City of Houston because the chain of command was not followed in regards to the use of force (p. 286). The end result is a case where an individual made a decision that was not his to make; that ultimately cost a man his life.
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