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Some Key Vicarious Liability Theories In Florida

The Sunshine State has the highest number of uninsured drivers in the country. Over a fourth of Florida’s drivers have no auto insurance at all. Moreover, Florida has one of the lowest auto insurance minimums in the country. So, an unknown number of other drivers are dangerously underinsured.

As a result, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) do not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate Port St. Lucie car crash victims, especially in catastrophic injury cases. So, third party liability is very important in these matters. Many times, the only alternative is a cumbersome and time-consuming collections action against the tortfeasor.

Employer Liability in Port St. Lucie

Respondeat superior (let the master answer) is the broadest and most commonly-used employer liability theory in Florida. The elements are:

  • Employee: The tortfeasor must be an employee for negligence purposes, as opposed to an employee for tax purposes. Truck driver owner-operators, independent contractors, and even many unpaid volunteers are employees for negligence purposes. That’s because the employer controls at least one key aspect of the relationship, such as hours worked or type of work performed.
  • Scope of Employment: This phrase is very broad as well. Delivery drivers operating delivery trucks during their normal shifts operate within the scope of employment. Likewise, salespeople who drive to and from appointments are operating within the course and scope of employment. In both cases, the employer receives a benefit from the worker’s activity, and that’s all that matters.
  • Foreseeability: Car crashes are foreseeable consequences of driving cars, although a crash is not an inevitable consequence of driving a car. Accidents are not foreseeable only in rare cases, such as a worker who steals a car from the parking lot.

Respondeat superior does not apply if the tortfeasor commits an intentional tort, like assault or theft. Such acts are clearly not within the scope of employment as the employer receives no benefit. However, negligent hiring or negligent supervision probably apply in these cases.

Both these theories are essentially the same. An employer is liable for the intentional torts of its workers if the employer either hired an unqualified employee or failed to properly supervise one of these workers. Special rules apply with regard to criminal backgrounds.

Dram Shop Liability in Florida

Many states have scaled back or eliminated their commercial alcohol provider liability laws. But Florida’s dram shop law is one of the strongest ones in the country. State lawmakers clearly understand that bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial providers who illegally sell alcohol are just as guilty as the tortfeasors themselves. Port St. Lucie’s dram shop law has two major prongs:

  • Illegal Sale: It is illegal to sell alcohol to minors or to people who are “habitually addicted” to alcohol. In the first instance, defendants are usually strictly liable if the purchaser was under 21. In the second instance, the victim must prove that the tortfeasor had a problem with alcohol and that the provider knew of this problem.
  • Foreseeability: It is foreseeable, though not necessarily likely, that people will open cans of beer that they bought at a convenience store as they drive home.

Social hosts who illegally serve alcohol may be liable for damages as well, under a theory like negligent undertaking.

Reach Out to Assertive Lawyers

The tortfeasor is often not the only person who is responsible for damages in car wreck cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence matters.



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