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Failure to Supervise

A law firm may be liable for failing to supervise an employee as a reasonable and prudent law firm would have done in the same or similar circumstances.  This is called ‘negligent supervision.’

A law firm may also be liable for injuries done to others caused by the acts of their employees, provided those acts are committed in the course and scope of the employee’s employment.

Note that the law firm need not have been aware of the conduct; as long as the negligent conduct was committed by an employee in the course and scope and proximately caused damages, the law firm is liable.

The dispute in these cases will generally concern whether the act complained of was actually done in the course and scope of employment.  There is extensive case law defining ‘course and scope.’  The Restatement (Second) of Agency, Section 228, states:

‘(1) Conduct of a servant is within the scope of employment if, but only if:

  • it is of the kind he is employed to perform;
  • it occurs substantially within the authorizedtime and space limits;
  • it is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose toserve the master, and
  • if force is intentionally used by the servantagainst another, the use of force is not unexpectable by the master.

(2) Conduct of a servant is not within the scope of employment if it is different in kind from that authorized, far beyond the authorized time or space limits, or too little actuated by a purpose to serve the master.’”