South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Tort Related to Charitable Activities While at Work Not Employer’s Responsibility

Mississippi high court held that an employer is not liable on the theory of respondeat superior for a car accident caused by an employee who was engaged in charitable activities during work time. Those activities were not a central part of the work duties.



Key Words

Respondeat Superior; Scope of Employment; Indirect Benefits; Accident

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Thornton was manager of a branch of Commercial Bank. One afternoon, while delivering a United Way pledge solicitation package to a local business, Thornton hit a vehicle driven by Hearn. Hearn's infant child died in the accident. Hearn sued Thornton and the bank for wrongful death. The bank filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming Thornton was not acting within the scope of employment at the time of the accident. The court rejected the motion. The bank appealed.


Reversed and remanded. An indirect benefit to an employer is not the appropriate test for respondeat superior. The bank was not responsible under respondeat superior as there was no evidence that Thornton was employed to perform that kind of conduct (delivering the pledge package) nor was it enough to say that Thornton 's good deeds might have resulted in new customers for the bank. While there may be evidence that the bank encouraged Thornton 's participation in charitable activities, and benefited from them, far more was required to impute liability to the bank.


Commercial Bank v. Hearn, 923 So.2d 202 (Sup. Ct. , Miss. , 2006)

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