Can an employer be held liable for the actions of their employees?

May 20, 2022 | , , | News

In short, the answer is yes, and most employers are unaware hereof.

Vicarious liability is where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another.

PAIA

In Neethling’s Law of Delict, he describes liability as “the strict liability of one person for the delict of another”, which arises from a particular relationship between such persons – an example of such a relationship is that of employment.

In short, the answer is yes, and most employers are unaware hereof.

Vicarious liability is where someone is held responsible for the actions or omissions of another. There are certain requirements to be met, namely that there must be an employment relationship; there must a commission of a delict (a wrongful act) and the wrongful act must be committed in the scope of employment.

The recent case of Maimela v Liquor City Castlewalk [2022] 26791-2018 (GP) at [13]-[27] dealt with this.

During 2017 armed robbers attempted to rob the Castle Walk Liquor store, taking the security guard hostage and attempting to break the security glass that protected the expensive liquor. Mr Schoombie was the store manager and was carrying a firearm, which he used to shoot at the robbers. Mr Maimela was killed in the cross-fire and his wife now claims from the store and Mr Schoombie, for loss of support for herself and her three minor children. The main issue was whether the store was vicariously liable for the actions of its store manager.

Ndlokovane AJ discusses Mr Schoombie’s evidence that the owner was aware that he carried a gun and actually encouraged him to shoot any robbers; the owner’s denial that Mr Schoombie acted within the course and scope of his employment and that the protection of the assets and staff of the store was not his duty, which was the exclusive duty of the security personnel; the evidence that he was told not to carry the firearm at work; the Supreme Court of Appeal case of Stallion Security v Van Staden; the extent of Mr Schoombie’s job description; and that no serious disciplinary action was taken against him for his action during the shooting incident.

The liquor store is held vicariously liable for the damages in the form of loss of support resulting from the shooting by Mr Schoombie.

This article does not intend to be a complete advise of the subject of vicarious liability. Kindly contact us on info@cklaw.co.za
or 021 556 9864 to speak to one of our attorneys.

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