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Texas Respondeat Superior

© 2014 Mark Courtois and Diane Davis

Respondeat superior is a Latin phrase that means "let the master answer". The doctrine applies in cases where a plaintiff wants to hold a company responsible for the tortious acts of its employee. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer can be held vicariously liable for the tortious acts of its employees conducted within the scope of their employment. Baptist Mem'l Hosp. Sys. v. Sampson, 969 S.W.2d 945, 947 (Tex. 1998). Employers are held liable for the conduct of their employees because employers generally have the right to control the means and methods of the employees work. Id.

Borrowed Servant Doctrine

In some situations, where an employee is taking directions from multiple different employers, the employee may actually be considered the borrowed employee of another company. In those instances when it is unclear who should be considered an employer for the purposes of the doctrine of vicarious liability, the controlling factor is the right to direct and control the details of the employee's work. St. Joseph Hosp. v. Wolff, 94 S.W.3d 513, 537-538 (Tex. 2002). Whether a general employee of one employer has become the borrowed employee of an another employer is determined by the right to direct and control the employee that the special employer has in regards to the details of the particular work at issue. Id. The test is whether the borrowing employer has the right to control the progress, details, and methods of operation of the work. Limestone Prods. Distrib., Inc. v. McNamara, 71 S.W.3d 308, 312 (Tex. 2002).

Independent Contractor

Ordinarily, a party is not vicariously liable for the actions of an independent contractor. An independent contractor has sole control over the means and methods of the work that he will accomplish. Enserch Corp. v. Parker, 794 S.W.2d 2, 6 (Tex. 1990).