Colorado Compendium of Transportation Law
April 2012

The employer's duty to members of the public in both negligent hiring and negligent supervision cases stems from the principle that the employer receives benefits from having customers and business invitees and incurs responsibilities to them. Raleigh v. Performance Plumbing & Heating, Inc., 130 P.3d 1011, 1017 (Colo. 2006). In Colorado, there are multiple methods by which a non-employee third party can recover from an employer for an employee's actions.

1) Respondeat Superior

  • "Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is liable for torts committed by its employee or agent while acting within the scope of employment" or the scope of the agency. Veintimilla v. Dobyanski, 975 P.2d 1122, 1123 (Colo. App. 1997). The doctrine "is based on the theory that the employee acts on behalf of the employer when the employee is within the scope of his or her employment." Raleigh v. Performance Plumbing & Heating, Inc., 130 P.3d 1011, 1019 (Colo. 2006); Henisse v. First Transit, Inc., 220 P.3d 980, 988 (Colo. App. 2009) rev'd on other grounds, 247 P.3d 577 (Colo. 2011). In order to succeed on the theory of respondeat superior, "a plaintiff must show that the employer controlled or had the right to control the actions of its purported employee." Dobyanski, 975 P.2d at 1123; see Stokes v. Denver Newspaper Agency, LLP, 159 P.3d 691, 693 (Colo. App. 2006) ("[t]he employer is liable if the employee's conduct was motivated by an intent to serve the employer's interests and connected to acts the employee was authorized to perform"). In such situations, the employer is vicariously liable for the employee's negligent acts. Raleigh, 130 P.3d at 1019. Furthermore, "[t]he vicarious liability of the employer is only secondary liability—that is, the extent of that liability is dependent on and limited by the extent to which the employee is liable." Henisse, 220 P.3d at 988 (citing Arnold v. Colo. State Hosp., 910 P.2d 104, 107 (Colo. App. 1995)). Therefore, an employer may raise any substantive defense that is available to the employee. Id.

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