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Marsha drove a truck, made routine deliveries, and undertook other driving responsibilities for Pukaberry Farms. She was responsible for maintaining her own operator casualty insurance, paying for any traffic tickets she might receive while operating a Farms vehicle, and being available “on call” for driving assignments, both on weekdays and weekends. When “on call,” Marsha had the right to refuse any Farms assignment and to drive for other companies, which she did on occasion. One weekend, Marsha was called by Farms to drive to Finleytown. She agreed to the assignment. Marsha’s instructions were “to proceed due west by way of Cootztown where she was to remain overnight.” Also, she was specifically told not to smoke while in the Farms’ truck.

The next day, Marsha drove the Farms’ truck towards Cootztown by way of Rockville, where she conducted some personal business. From Rockville, she proceeded directly toward Cootztown. Before arriving at Cootztown, Marsha stopped at a gas station to fill the truck with gasoline and get a pack of cigarettes. She purchased the cigarettes and was smoking one while standing in the parking lot of the station. Before returning to the truck, she attempted to extinguish the lit cigarette against the side of a large steel container. Unfortunately, the container held a flammable liquid and ignited, causing a fire and serious damage to the property.

QUESTION:

Assuming that Marsha was negligent in extinguishing her cigarette, discuss whether Farms may be vicariously liable for the resultant damage to the gas station.

Write an essay response in form of an IRAC. Follow the instructions below:

Answer fully and clearly. Answers consist of identifying the issues, analyzing the facts and applying law to the facts. Mere conclusions are not enough and may receive no credit.

Use essay format that incorporate IRAC method.

Discuss the issues involved, the applicable legal rules, an application of the law to the facts.

Discuss all issues. Some essay questions have more than one issue.

An overall structure of answers to essay questions is as follows:

Discuss the issue(s)

Define and discuss any principles of law, legal theories, etc., relevant to the question.

Fully apply the given facts to the legal principles on which you rely. Do not ignore any facts, even if they do not support your conclusions. Do not assume that I know that you know something – tell me in your exam what you know, defining every legal term used.

The actual conclusions you reach could be the least important part of your answer – but you must base your conclusions on complete and intelligent applications of the facts to the legal principles involved.

Format

1. Agency

A issue

B rule

C application

D conclusion

2. Authority

A issue

B rule

C application

D conclusion

3 vicarious liability

A issue

B rule

C application

D conclusion

Answer:

Vicarious Liability

A. Issue: Is Farms vicariously liable for the resultant damage to the gas station caused by Marsha’s negligent act of extinguishing her cigarette?

B. Rule: Vicarious liability refers to the legal doctrine under which an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employees when those acts occur within the scope of employment. To establish vicarious liability, the following elements must generally be met:

  • The employee must be acting within the scope of their employment.
  • The negligent act must be committed in furtherance of the employer’s business or for the employer’s benefit.
  • The employer must have the right to control the employee’s actions.

C. Application: In this case, Marsha was an employee of Pukaberry Farms and was engaged in driving responsibilities for the company at the time of the incident. She was instructed by Farms to drive to Finleytown via Cootztown and was specifically told not to smoke while in the Farms’ truck. Despite being “on call,” Marsha had agreed to the assignment and was driving the Farms’ truck in furtherance of the company’s business.

Marsha’s act of attempting to extinguish her lit cigarette against a large steel container at the gas station was negligent, as she failed to exercise reasonable care, resulting in a fire and serious damage to the gas station property. While Marsha may have been engaged in a personal act (smoking) at the time of the incident, her actions were closely connected to her employment duties as a truck driver for Pukaberry Farms. Additionally, her use of the Farms’ truck to travel to Cootztown was authorized by Farms and undertaken for the company’s benefit.

D. Conclusion: Based on the application of vicarious liability principles, Pukaberry Farms may be vicariously liable for the damage caused by Marsha’s negligent act of attempting to extinguish her cigarette. Marsha was acting within the scope of her employment and her actions were connected to her driving responsibilities for Farms, thereby making Farms potentially liable for her negligence under the doctrine of vicarious liability.

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