Car Bazaar: Arguments for Defendants and Plaintiffs
Part I: Car Bazaar Arguments for the Plaintiffs
The plaintiffs need to derive their first argument from the agency law, where they will establish a case that Wilson (an agent of Car Bazaar) was acting within the scope of employment when the accident happened, thus making Car Bazaar (the principal) liable. Agency law “is concerned with the legal relationship where one party/individual acts on behalf of and with the authority of another party” (“Agency and Liability,” 2020). The person that authorizes the other to act on their behalf is the principal, while the individual/party that acts on behalf of another is the agent. This now creates an agency relationship, namely a principal-agent, agent-third parties, and principal-third parties (“Agency and Liability,” 2020). Each of these relationships varies in terms of rights, roles, and responsibilities.
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Agency relationships have the potential to create liabilities for the principal under the vicarious liability concept. Vicarious liability implies a situation where one individual/party is held liable for the actions committed by others (“Agency and Liability,” 2020). In a legal context, the agent is deemed to be acting or have acted vicariously for the principal. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a principal carries the responsibility of a tortious act committed by their agent only if the latter was acting within the scope of employment (“Agency and Liability,” 2020).
Therefore, an agent must be acting within the scope of employment at the time of committing a tort for a principal to be held liable. Wilson was acting within the scope of employment at the time the accident occurred as his job entailed driving cars among other duties. Thus, he is deemed to have acted vicariously for Carz Bazaar, which makes them liable as per the respondeat superior doctrine.
The second argument that the plaintiffs can use to hold Carz Bazaar liable is that of negligent supervision. Employers can be held liable for the wrong actions of their employees if they do not take appropriate steps to ensure that company policies are followed to the letter (Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, 2018). In the case of Carz Bazaar, there was no strict supervision of the attendant’s duties to ensure that she only gave car keys to employees when the use was for business purposes only.
For example, there could be a system where the attendant had to confirm with the immediate supervisor to authorize any employee to use the company cars, when the purpose was well known to the company. The lack of strict supervision gave Gina a leeway to give car keys to employees when the use was personal such as in the case of Wilson, without notifying the management. Thus, Carz Bazaar should be held liable for negligent supervision.
The third argument for the plaintiffs is based on the principal-agent relationship; Gina is an agent of Carz Bazaar and when she gave Wilson permission to use the car, Carz Bazaar authorized Wilson to use the car and thus should be held liable. Gina’s role as an attendant for Carz Bazaar was to manage the key-control procedure and thus was authorized as part of her duties to give car keys to employees whenever they needed to use the cars. Gina was an agent of Carz Bazaar acting on their behalf as per her job duties.
Therefore, when Wilson requested Gina to use the car for personal use, and she gave him permission, Carz Bazaar gave him permission and is thus liable. Also, at the time of the accident, Wilson was acting within the scope of his employment since he had permission from Carz Bazaar and was also driving the car.
Part II: Car Bazaar Arguments for the Defendant
The first argument for the defendant is to prove that there is a frolic and detour that exempts them from the vicarious tort liability. The plaintiffs are using the principal-agent relationship to show that Carz Bazaar is liable for the tortious acts of their agent under the vicarious tort liability doctrine. What this implies is that at the time of the tort, the agent was acting within the scope of his employment and thus the principal needs to bear the liability for the tortious act of their agent.
In their defense, Car Bazaar should prove that the actions of their agent was a frolic and detour and, therefore, not liable for vicarious tort liability. The first action that the defendant should take is to prove that their agent committed a frolic. A frolic is when an agent or employee disregards the employer’s business objectives and seeks personal interests, while a detour usually happens when an employee or agent substantially deviates from an employer’s instructions or rules (“Agency and Liability,” 2020).
In the case of Carz Bazaar, Wilson abandoned the business interest and pursued a personal interest by going to his Mother’s house during lunch break and thus committed a frolic. Also, he broke the rule of the company which required the cars must be driven or moved for business use only. However, Wilson abandoned the business interest and pursued personal interests by going to his mum’s house by breaking this rule, Wilson committed a detour. The fact that Wilson committed both a frolic and detour is a basis for Car Bazaar to be relieved of the vicarious tort liability.
The second argument for the defendant is that Gina, as an agent of Carz Bazaar, went outside the scope of her employment when she gave Wilson the keys knowing very well that it was for personal use. Acting within the scope of employment means that an agent is acting within the range of duties and activities that a principal reasonably expects her to do. When an agent is acting within the scope of her employment, she will not be liable to third parties on the obligations she entered into on behalf of the principal (“Agency and Liability,” 2020).
In such a case, the principal is held liable under the vicarious tort liability doctrine. However, when an agent is acting outside the scope of employment, the principal may not be held liable for torts committed in the process. Gina understood that she was supposed to issue car key when the car was to be driven or moved for business use only. Thus, when she gave Wilson the car keys to use the car for personal interest, she went outside the scope of her employment, and was thus not acting on behalf of Carz Bazaar.
The third argument for the defendant is that Gina did not check out the vehicle (did not follow the key-control procedure) because she knew it was for personal use thus broke the company’s rule that cars should be checked out only for business use. Carz Bazaar has a policy that when an employee wants to move a company vehicle, the attendant should put information into a template request form. The information should cover the time, date, vehicle identification number of the vehicle, name of the employee who is checking out the vehicle, and the direction of the vehicle.
This information is well known among the employees. Gina knew that the car was going to be used for personal use by Wilson, which is the reason she did not follow the key-control procedure. Since the company rule was broken, it means that the car was being used for personal interest and thus Carz Bazaar should not be held liable.
Conclusion & Recommendations
In brief, the agent-principal relationship raises legal issues that sometimes raise liabilities for either or both of the parties when dealing with third parties. When a third party (in this case the plaintiff) sues the principal for a tort committed by her agent, such as in the case of Carz Bazaar, both parties need to argue their arguments in a court of law. In such cases, the aim of the plaintiff is to be awarded damages to put them in the same position they were before the tort was committed by proving that the principal is liable, while the defendant tries to exempt from the liability.
It is important to analyze the laws and determine who is at fault and who should be held responsible. Usually, accidents may happen. However, the process in which the company handles this incident and restores its reputation will be the distinguishing component of its success or failure. Irrespective of the determination by the court, the following recommendations are necessary to ensure that such an incident does not occur again.
- The company should ensure that strict supervision of the key-control procedure is put in place so that cars are only used for business purpose alone.
- The return of car keys should be enforced to ensure that only the employees that were handed the car keys should return them to the attendant.
- Strict measure should be put in place to ensure that employees do not go beyond their express authority such as including another level of authorization for car use.