February 28, 2024
What Does Personal Liability Look Like On The Job?

Can an employee of a company be personally liable for incidents that happen while on the job?  The short answer is “Yes.”

Corporations, limited partnerships, limited liability companies and other entities formed for the purpose of shielding individuals while conducting business can lull one into a false sense of safety.  It is true that a limited liability entity will protect the owners, investors and officers from the debts and judgments of the business.  It is also true that a business can only act through the individuals who constitute it.  It is reasonable then to wonder which actions are protected by the limited liability of an entity, and which are not.

Who owes the duty of care?

Whether an individual is liable for actions taken within the scope of his employment depends on who owes the duty, the company or the individual?  When considering whether a wrong has been committed, you must first determine whether a duty of care is owed.  For example, if a criminal breaks into your car then drives into a third person, you owe no duty of care towards the third person because (1) you did not drive your car, and (2) you did not give the criminal permission to drive your car.  On the other hand, if you are driving a vehicle (even a company vehicle), you owe a general duty of care to the other drivers on the road.

Once we establish a duty of care, then we must determine which party (or parties) must maintain that duty of care. There are some instances where only a company owes such duties to people—for example, only a company has a duty to design or manufacture safe products that will not injure the consumer. As such, any individual employee involved in this process cannot be held personally liable if a product is found to be unsafe.

However, employees and agents of a company must often act in and around the public to carry out their work responsibilities.  It is here that a personal duty of care can arise.

When does a personal duty of care arise?

To be personally liable, a corporate officer or agent must have acted negligently in his individual capacity. White–Wilson Medical Center v. Dayta Consultants, 486 So. 2d 659, 661 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986).  That is, would a normal, reasonable person realize that they should be acting carefully regardless of whether or not they are on the job?

Are you driving a delivery truck and running a red light?  Are you renting out skates at the roller rink and knowingly rent out a broken pair?  Are you knowingly cutting corners or acting carelessly in a way that could predictably cause people harm?  If the answer is “yes,” then you are personally liable no matter if you were acting within the scope of your job duties.

Generally, if you personally act negligently while on the job, your company is also vicariously liable, and the company’s insurer will step in and provide both you and the company legal representation.  Sometimes, however, the company or the insurer might defend themselves by laying all the blame on you.

Should you find yourself in such a situation, the attorneys at Boatman Ricci can help. If you are concerned whether you may face personal liability for an incident at work, call the offices of Boatman Ricci to schedule an initial consultation to discuss your case.

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THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE. THE READER SHOULD CONSULT WITH KNOWLEDGEABLE LEGAL COUNSEL TO DETERMINE HOW APPLICABLE LAWS APPLY TO SPECIFIC FACTS AND SITUATIONS. BLOG POSTS ARE BASED ON THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION AT THE TIME THEY ARE WRITTEN. SINCE IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LAWS OR OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES MAY HAVE CHANGED SINCE PUBLICATION, PLEASE CALL US TO DISCUSS ANY ACTION YOU MAY BE CONSIDERING AS A RESULT OF READING THIS BLOG.

Published: February 28, 2024
Author: Bo Boatman
Categories : Uncategorized