Generally, a person is liable for his own wrongful acts and one does not incur in any liability for the acts done by others. Example saying, A entered the house or property of B without his permission, so therefore A committed the unlawful act of trespass and thus he is held liable.This is basically the general rule of tort. But in, vicarious liability whenever  a person commits an act which is unlawful or wrongful in the eyes of law, other person will be held liable for the act as they share some kind of relation and the act done by the person is during the course of employment.the person can be made liable for the act which he had not committed. The relation might be of master and servant or Principal and agent etc.
In all these cases the person’s liability is vicarious liability.


Vicarious liability refers to a situation in which a person is held liable for the acts or omission been done by other person during the course of employment as they share some relation due to which the liability of a person arises.
It is also known by a maxim “Respondent Superior” which states that the Superior will be held responsible for the act done by his Subordinate. This rule is also called as Master- Servant rule.

For example:-
A is the driver of B who works for B. While one day, taking B to his office driving B’s car,  he met with an accident hitting the pedestrian causing him serious damages. Therefore, in this case A will not be held liable for act of negligence and B will be liable for the same as A was driving in the course of B’s employment.


  • There must be relationship of some kind.
  • The wrongful act by a person must be related to the relationship in certain way.
  • The wrong must be done in the course of employment.


  • Qui facit per alium facit per se It means whenever a person gets something done by another person then the person is said to be doing the act himself.
If A is the owner of many trucks and have employed the truck drivers to drive the truck for the purpose for trade. If one of the truck drivers gets involved in rash and negligent driving causing an accident then even, A did not drive the truck himself, but will be liable for the accident.

Also Read: Law of Torts : Nuisance: Public and Private:- Our Legal World

  • Respondent Superior

It means that the Superior should be held liable for the acts done by his subordinate during the course of employment.


 Following are the relations in which various liability of a person arises:-

  1. Master-Servant
  2. Partners in partnership firm
  3. Principal-Agent

The relationship between the parties where the liability on a person arises are discussed below:-


 In Master-Servant relationship, the general rule is that the master is liable for the acts been done by servant during the course of employment. The servant is been authorised to do the work been assigned by the master therefore, he would not be held liable.

 Some essentials for Master-Servant relationship are:- 

  • The servant has committed an act which amounts to a tort
  • Such tortious act is been committed by the servant during the course of employment under the master.
In case Sita Ram Moti lal Kalal v. Santanu Prasad Bhatt;

Owner entrusted his car to his driver M for driving it as taxi, M training C, the cleaner of taxi, to drive the taxi and take him to the office of RTO for test driving. C committed accident while driving negligently. Supreme court held that there was no proof that the driver was given the work to coach the cleaner so that the cleaner might become driver and drive the taxi, at the time of accident the car was not used for the owner’s purpose or for his work. So therefore, the driver and the cleaner will be personally held liable for the act.


This relationship is an association in which one entity legally appoints another to act or behave on his behalf. The connection between both the principal and the agent is known as ‘agency’.
Making it more easy lets briefly explain this:-

Who is a Principal
“According to Section 182, the person for whom the act is been done or who is so represented is called the ‘principal’ . Therefore the person who has delegated the  authority is the principal”.

Who may be an agent?
 “Indian contract act, 1872 defines agent as in section 182 as a person who is employed to   do any act for another or to represent another in dealing with third persons”.

Essentials of agency are:-

There are two most important essential elements of principal-agent relationship:-

  • Derivative authority

This principal needs to give his authority to his agent, when an agent works on the behalf of him.

  • Representative character

This essential states that the agent working on the behalf of the principal must have the authority of representing the principal.

Duties of an agent and principal

Duties of agent

The duties of agent include:-

  • Duty of loyalty
  • Duty to obey instructions
  • Duty to act with skill and care
  • Duty to notify

Duties of principal

The duties of principal include:-

  • Duty to compensate
  • Duty to reimburse
  • Duty to indemnify

    Partners in Partnership firm

The relationship which the partners have with each other is same as principal-agent relation. The tort committed by any partner of the company, all the other partners will also be held liable for the tort. The liability of each partner if joint and several. In a partnership firm all partners act on the behalf of other partner or on behalf of partnership. Hence, a partnership can be held liable for the negligence committed by the partner. In same sense, the partnership may be held liable for the injury or loss if the client.

Section 25 of Partnership Act, 1932:

 Liability of a partner for acts of the firm

Every partner is liable jointly with all other partners and also severally, for all acts of the firm done while he is a partner.

In case Smt. Vunna Visali v. State of A.P.;

It was held that every partner is liable for an ‘act of the firm’. ‘Act of firm’ has been defined to mean any act or omission ‘Act of firm’ has been defined to mean any act or omission by all the partners or by any partner or agent of the firm which gives rise to a right enforceable by or against the firm. This is the civil liability of the firm and its partner.

In Hamlin v. Houston;

In a partnership firm, one of the partners of the firm bribed the clerk of plaintiff to get some secret information from him about plaintiff’s business. It was held by court that both the partners of the firm were held liable for breach of contract which is a wrongful act, although the act being committed by one among the partners.


Vicarious liability deals with the cases where one person is held liable for the act been done by another person during the course of employment and that person shares some relation with another person. In torts, it is considered to be an exception to the general rule that person is liable for his own acts only. In master-servant relationship, the servant does an act on behalf of his master, and therefore master is been held liable for the acts done by servant during the course of employment. The master is  bounded by this liability as the servant is doing the work authorised by him does will be liable for the negligent or wrongful act of servant.



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