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When may businesses face liability for harm caused by employees?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2022 | Business Litigation |

Lawsuits against businesses may require a strong defense to absolve them from liability for harm caused by negligence. Forbes notes that plaintiffs may attempt to hold employers strictly accountable for injuries caused by their employees.

Your business may face liability for injuries under the doctrine of vicarious liability. The court, however, may require proof of how much control you exercise over your employees. If a customer experienced harm while workers performed their normal duties, your business may have responsibility for providing relief.

Vicarious liability may apply with independent contractors

Businesses hiring independent contractors may face liability for harm caused by their nonemployee staff. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a business mistakenly classifying employees as independent contractors may face lawsuits over their preventable accidents.

Mishaps occurring while contractors perform an “inherently dangerous activity” may result in businesses assuming liability for harm. The court typically reviews how much control existed over an independent contractor’s actions. If the business did not exercise a sufficient amount of control, the injured party may file a lawsuit against the contractor instead.

California hospital found not liable for harm

As reported on the HRD website, a patient sought to hold a hospital liable for damages. According to the complaint, the plaintiff developed neurological problems from injuries caused by a surgical procedure performed there.

The court found that the hospital did not have vicarious liability. The facility and physician did not create an employer-employee relationship. Because the doctor performed surgery as an independent contractor, the hospital did not control his activities. The plaintiff settled the case with the physician instead.

It could prove helpful to maintain records detailing your employment relationships. Whether you hire independent contractors or employees, the amount of control over their actions may require documentation to avoid liability.


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