South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Release of Negligent Employee from Liability Means Release of Employer
Description

Mississippi high court held that when a plaintiff settles tort liability with a negligent employee, and the settlement ends further liability, the settlement thereby includes the employer who is then released from liability and is not subject to subsequent litigation.

Topic

Agency

Key Words

Vicarious Liability; Respondeat Superior; Negligence

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Smith Trucking, which hauls timber logs, hired Galatas as a driver. When Galatas was delivering logs in Smith’s truck on contract for J&J Timber, he plowed into a bus and killed two passengers. The plaintiffs reached a settlement with Galatas and Smith which discharged them from further liability and any further claims. Plaintiffs then filed J&J Timber, charging it with vicarious liability for the negligence of Galatas. The matter was appealed to the Mississippi high court on procedural grounds prior to trial.

Decision

When a party’s suit against an employer is based on respondeat superior, the vicarious liability claim itself is extinguished if the negligent employee has been released from liability. That release of tort liability ends all claims of vicarious liability against the employer. Public policy favors final resolution of disputes, thus avoiding secondary actions involving the same matter. Had the plaintiffs wished to include J&J in the matter, it should have been brought into the original settlement or litigation rather than handling the liability issues in sequence.

Citation

J&J Timber Co. v. Broome, 932 So.2d 1 (Sup. Ct., Miss., 2006)

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