Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine under which someone who does not personally commit a wrongful act can nevertheless be held responsible for injuries caused by another. Nevada law imposes vicarious liability in a number of contexts, including employer/employee, principal/agent and parent/child relationships.
This doctrine works to the advantage of plaintiffs in Nevada personal injury and accident lawsuits. This is because the “vicariously liable” party often has more resources, insurance coverage and ability to pay larger settlement amounts than the actual wrongdoer.
To help you better understand vicarious liability in Nevada, as well as some related direct liability for acts by others, our Nevada personal injury lawyers will explain the following:
- 1. What is “vicarious liability”?
- 2. Nevada’s “parental liability” law – NRS 41.470
- 3. Nevada’s law on “negligent entrustment
- 4. Nevada’s law on negligent hiring, retention or supervision
- 5. Nevada’s law on respondeat superior (employer’s liability for the acts of employees)
1. What is “vicarious liability”?
In general, people in Nevada are not responsible for wrongful acts committed by others. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.
Under Nevada and federal law, people can sometimes be held responsible for the actions of another based on the relationship between the wrongdoer and the other party (for instance, parent/child or employer/employee).
Such indirect liability is known as “vicarious” liability.
2. Nevada’s “parental liability” law – NRS 41.470
Nevada law holds parents responsible for the acts of their children when the children engage in willful misconduct. It creates a civil cause of action and is distinct from Nevada’s criminal laws on child neglect or endangerment.
NRS 41.470 allows people injured by someone’s child to collect up to $10,000 in damages from the child and/or the parents as long as the misconduct by the child was intentional.
However, there may be additional theories of liability under which someone injured by a child may be able to recover more than $10,000 — for instance, when the parent him- or herself was negligent.
3. Nevada’s law on “negligent entrustment”
Under Nevada law, negligent entrustment allows one to recover damages in a lawsuit when:
- Someone leaves a potentially dangerous object, such as an automobile or firearm, in the care of another person;
- That person knew or should have known that the person (s)he gave it to was too inexperienced and/or incompetent to use it safely;
- The person entrusted with the object uses it negligently and harms you; and
- As a result of the negligent actions, you suffer damages.
While one can always sue the person who acted negligently, Nevada’s negligent entrustment law allows one to sue also — or instead — the person who entrusted the dangerous object to the person who harmed you.
4. Nevada’s law on negligent hiring, retention or supervision
Under certain circumstances, Nevada law makes employers responsible for the wrongful acts of their employees. One of these is respondeat superior, a form of vicarious liability discussed in section 5, below. Another is the negligent hiring, retention or supervision of an employee, under which an employer is responsible for its own negligence in dealing with its employee.
Nevada’s law on negligent hiring, retention or supervision gives someone injured by an employee the right to sue the employer when:
- The employer failed to conduct a reasonable background check to ensure that the employee was fit for the position, or
- The employer hired the employee even though the employer knew, or should have known, the employee had dangerous propensities, or
- The employer retained an employee the employer learned was dangerous, or
- The employer failed adequately to supervise an employee doing a job that could potentially harm others.1
Nevada ride-sharing company engages Walter as a driver. A cursory background check fails to reveal that Walter has a past conviction for violating
Nevada’s sexual assault laws.
One night Walter picks up an inebriated young woman from a Las Vegas nightclub. After she passes out in his car, Walter rapes her. The woman sues the ride-sharing company for her
medical bills and
pain and suffering under the theory that by failing to discover the past conviction, the ride-sharing company negligently hired Walter.
See our related article on negligent security claims in Nevada.
5. Nevada’s law on respondeat superior (employer’s liability for acts of the employees)
Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a Nevada employer in Nevada is vicariously liable for the wrongful acts or omissions of its employees when:
- The employee is under the defendant’s control, and
- The employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment.
Example: Jim is working security at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. His employer has strict rules for when its personnel can use physical force against concert goers. On the last night of the festival Jim gets too aggressive with a drunk patron and uses excessive force to eject him. The patron suffers a dislocated jaw and incurs medical bills and other
compensatory damages totaling $20,000. The security company can likely be held liable, because Jim was under its control and acting within the scope of his employment.
(Note additionally, that if at the time of Jim’s employment he had a prior conviction under
Nevada’s criminal assault laws or
Nevada domestic violence laws, or anything else that would have indicated he had dangerous propensities, the security company might also be liable under Nevada’s negligent hiring law., discussed above).
However, let’s say Jim worked for the security company but was attending EDC on his night off. He had no prior dangerous tendencies or convictions. If he then got into a fight at the concert and broke another patron’s jaw, the security company would not be liable. On his night off, Jim is no more subject to his employer’s control than any other concert goer, nor was he acting within the scope of his employment. The other concertgoer would need to find another theory in order to hold the security company responsible for Jim’s actions (such as negligence of the guards actually on duty).
Injured in Las Vegas? Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been injured in Las Vegas, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
To schedule your free consultation, call us or fill out the form on this page.
If your matter is in California, we invite you to visit our page on California vicarious liability laws.
- Hall v. SSF, Inc., 112 Nev. 1384 (1996); Rockwell v. Sun Harbor Budget Suites, 112 Nev. 1217 (1997).