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§33.1 Generally

The Case: Browder v. Morris , 975 S.W.2d 308 (Tenn. 1998).

The Basic Facts: Browder was in a car accident with Morris and sought to impose liability on Morris' employer.

The Bottom Line:

  • "We agree with the plaintiffs that vicarious liability, FN4 or imputed negligence, FN5 continues to be viable after the adoption of comparative fault. One who is vicariously liable is held to be financially responsible for the tortious actions of another, even though the vicariously liable party was not negligent. See [Prosser and Keeton on Torts], § 69 (5th ed.1984). The adoption of comparative fault did not change this principle. Vicarious liability still applies, for example, where liability attaches under the family purpose doctrine, respondeat superior, or similar circumstance where liability is vicarious due to an agency-type relationship between the active, or actual, wrongdoer and the one who is vicariously responsible. Camper v. Minor, 915 S.W.2d 437, 447-48 (Tenn.1996).
    FN4 Vicarious liability is defined as the 'imposition of liability on one person for the actionable conduct of another, based solely on a relationship between the two persons. Indirect or imputed legal responsibility for acts of another; for example, the liability of an employer for the acts of an employee, or a principal for torts and contracts of an agent.' ]Black's Law Dictionary 1566 (6th ed. 1990)].

    FN5 Imputed negligence refers to the same concept as vicarious liability. 'The negligence of one person may be chargeable to another depending upon the relationship of the parties, as for example, the negligence of an agent acting within the scope of his employment is chargeable to the principal. Negligence which is not directly attributable to the person himself, but which is the negligence of a person who is in privity with him, and with whose fault he is chargeable.' [Black's Law Dictionary 758 (6th ed. 1990)]. See also [Prosser and Keeton on Torts], § 69, 499 (5th ed. 1984) ('Imputed negligence means that, by reason of some relation existing between A and B, the negligence of A is to be charged against B, although B played no part in it, has done nothing whatever to aid or encourage it, or indeed has done all that he possibly can to prevent it.')."
    975 S.W.2d at 311-12.

Recent Cases:  Wilburn v. City of Memphis, No. W2009-00923-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 1407233 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 9, 2010) (upholding award of $7,500 for wrongful death claim implying reduction for decedent’s fault).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

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The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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