It means when one person is liable on behalf of others. It is not possible in criminal law but in civil law, there may be vicarious liability based on certain relations.

  • Master-Servant (M/S) liability
  • Principal-Agent (P/A) liability
  • Liability of Partnership firm’s liability

M / S Liability :

“ Qui facit alium facit per se ” – It means that if you are doing your work through others then it will be presumed that you have done it by yourself.

“ Respondeat Superior ” – Superior must be held / made liable.

“ Deep Pocket (Modern View) ” – It means the one who is having capacities to bear the burden of compensation should be liable. It is a modern approach.

Essential for M / S Liability :

  • There should be a Master-Servant relationship.
  • In the course of employment:- In this, it should also fulfill the two criteria, i.e. the Act was authorized by the master and Authorised act done in a wrongful manner.

NOTE * Today direct control is not possible only right to control is sufficient (for a Master-Servant relationship).

 Sitaram V. Shantanu  A.I.R. 1966  SC

In this case, there was a cab handed over to the driver with instructions that he will drive as a taxi and he will handover the earnings to the taxi owner. The driver employed one helper in the cab and that help cab obtained the driving license. By giving the driving test at the RTO office he caused an accident. The case was filed against the master, the owner of the cap. There was no master-servant relationship and the stranger there was no right to control full stop it was no masters in the relationship it was then the course of unemployment because the Act was not authorized to handover the car to the stranger. The court rejected the case because the master was not held liable.

Beard V. London General Omnibus Co. (1900) Q.B.

After finishing the journey the driver went to lunch and in the absence of the driver, the conductor tried to turn the bus for the fresh journey and in doing so he crossed an accident. The act of conductor held not in the course of employment, although there was a master-servant relationship and right to control. The court held that the master was not held liable for the actions of his servant.


 It means that which is not for the master but it is for the servant himself.

Century Insurance V. Northern Ireland Transport Board  (1942 ) All E.R.

In this case, there was a Transport company engaged in the delivery of petrol to petrol pumps and they have the number of employees & drivers. Transport co. Was insured by Century Insurance, the driver of the truck while delivering the petrol to the petrol pump lighted his cigarette and when he threw the matchstick on the floor it cause complete destruction of the pump, as well as its, took the number of life. He was performing authorize at that is the delivery of petrol comma in a wrongful manner. The transport company was liable for the insurance co. paid for compensation.

NOTE * There are some cases where more than one master were present.

Mersey Docks and Harbour Board V. Coggins & Griffith (Liverpool) Ltd. HL 1946

Coggins hired a crane and driver from Mersey Docks, and it was under his instruction when the driver drove the crane negligently & caused an accident. It was questioned before in the court which master was liable. Actual control was available to hire because he was performing the task under the instructor of the hire. The court found the right to control with actual manner, although the actual control was available to hire. The court held that the owner was liable for M / S relationship.

Keppel Bus Co. Ltd. V. Sa’ad bin Ahmad  ( 1974 ) All E.R.

The conductor treated an elderly lady passenger in a high-handed and rude fashion. The plaintiff remonstrated with him. An altercation followed in which each tried to hit the other. They were separated by the passengers, but the conductor struck the plaintiff in the eye with his ticket punch, causing loss of sight in the eye. The case was filed against the bus company, the conductor was authorized to manage the bus but when he hit the face there was no disturbance in the bus. It was not an authorized act done in a wrongful manner. The English court held that the master was not vigorously liable for the servant.


It means the act which is prohibited to the servant by the master. In other words, only when the act so was done is of the nature that it cannot be related to the duty that the master had sent for the servant or activity which had been “expressly prohibited”, only then will it count as not being in the course of employment.

Limpus V. London General Omnibus Co.  (1862)

In this case, the driver was expressly prohibited for not competing with other buses. But the driver violet the instruction and started racing with other buses and because of this the bus got overturn and injured. The case was filed for compensation against the bus company. The driver was authorized to drive but the Act was done in a wrongful manner. Master was held libel instead of express prohibition.

2. Principle/ Agent liability :

Principal-agent relationship, when one person is doing certain actions on behalf of others then he is called an agent and another form the work is done is called the principal.

For this relationship, one thing must be established that one person is acting on behalf of others.

 State Bank of India V. Shyama Devi  A.I.R. 1978 SC

In this case, the lady handed over some cash in the evening to the cashier of the bank with instruction that it should be deposited to the bank, the cashier misappropriated the amount. Lady filed a case against the bank (SBI). It was a question on the court that the bank and the clerk had a P / A relationship or not. There was not a principal-agent relationship established between the bank and the agent. Therefore the bank was not held liable.

Lloyd V. Grace Smith Co.  1912 A.C

There was a firm of the solicitor and one of the clerks advise the lady that she need to sign certain documents coma on the basis of advice given by him but the effect of sin was all the property belonging to the lady transferred to the clerk. She filed a case against the law firm. It was held that the clerk was acting as the firm, therefore the firm was held liable as a principal and agent relationship.

Omrod V. Crosville Motor Services Ltd.  1953 All E.R

On request of a friend, drove the owner’s car when he causes an accident. The plaintiff sued the owner of the car. The basis of the finding of vicarious liability on the part of the car owner for the friend’s negligent driving was that the friend was driving the car partly for the owner’s purposes. so he was held liable as principal.

When car is being used by any family member, they need to establish the principal agent relationship for making the principal liable.

NOTE * The liability only shifts to the insurance company when a Third Party Insurance is done.

Author: Shubham siwach

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