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Fruit v. Schreiner, 502 P.2d 133

Alaska Supreme Court






Vicarious Liability




Respondeat Superior

Quick Notes

When Respondeat Superior Applies 



o         Whether an insurance company requiring its salesmen attend a three-day sales conference and the salesmen were left to arrange their own transportation and the scope of the conference included informal socializing with out-of-state guests is liable under R/S when a salesman injures a third party returning from the Bar to the convention center?  Yes




o         Jury verdict for Pl - Df insurance company appealed;


o         S. Ct Alaska Affirmed





o         Pl - Schreiner

o         Df - Fruit

What happened?

o         Fruit was an insurance salesman who was required to attend a sales convention conducted by his employer at the Lands End. 

o         He drove his own car, but was reimbursed for his expenditures. 

o         The convention included social events as well as business events; he was encouraged to mix freely with out-of-state experts in order to learn new sales techniques.

o         On the second evening he drove to the Bar to look for some of his colleagues, finding none he drove back. 

o         His car skidded across a highway and struck a disabled vehicle. 

o         Mr. Scheiner was standing in front of the vehicle and his legs were crushed.


Law or Rule(s): Respondeat Superior

o         An employer will be liable for the negligence of an employee committed while the employee is acting in the scope of his employment-in furtherance of his duties. 

o         Let the employer answer


Control Theory Focuses on the activities of the employee.

o         Finds liability whenever the act of the employee was committed with the implied authority, acquiescence [passive assent] or subsequent ratification [to approve] of the employer.


Enterprise Theory Focuses benefit, motive, or purpose of the activity.

o         Finds liability whenever the enterprise of the employer would have benefited by the context of the act of the employee BUT FOR the unfortunate injury.


Court Rationale: 


Does Not Apply

o         Justification for application of respondeat superior doctrine may not be found on theories involving employer's personal fault such as his failure to exercise proper control over activities of his employees or his failure to take proper precautions in firing or hiring them; lack of care on employer's part would subject him to direct liability without necessity of involving respondeat superior. 


When it Applies

o         Liability under doctrine of respondeat superior arises from relationship of enterprise to society rather than from misfeasance on part of employer. The enterprise may be regarded as a unit for tort as opposed to K liability purposes. Employees acts sufficiently connected with the enterprise are in effect considered as deeds of the enterprise itself.



o         Applicability of respondeat superior depends primarily on findings of fact in each case.

o         Where insurance company required that its salesmen attend three-day sales conference and salesmen were left to arrange own transportation and scope of conference included informal socializing with out-of-state guests, and defendant salesman went to another place in search of out-of-state guests and found none, jury could find he was within scope of employment in returning to place of conference during which return trip he had accident; and respondeat superior applied.


o         Plaintiffs Argument: Fruit (Employee) was acting on behalf of Equitable (Employer) when he went to and from the Bar prior to injury to the Pl (Schreiner), and at the encouragement of his employer, Equitable.


o         Defendants Argument: Any business purpose of Fruit was completed when Fruit left the Bar.



Class Notes

o        Which theory did the court use here CONTROL THEORY

         The court looked more at the actions themselves as opposed to the purpose i.e., CONTROL THEORY


o        Would the result have been different under the enterprise?


         For direct liability there must be some fault on the part of the employer.

         Direct liability is where someone did something that caused the injury of another due to some fault on there part.

         The court said that there wasnt sufficient evidence to prove the employer was liable in how it conducted the conference.

         Causation fails in this case No proximate cause