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Torts

Exam 29
30 minutes

Fact Pattern

A homeowner hires a pest-control company to treat the interior of the homeowner’s house.  A company employee arrives to perform the job. The employee wears a company uniform, drives a company truck, and uses tools and chemicals provided by the company. The employee performs all work according to the company’s procedures, using methods that the employee has learned in training provided by the company. Each day, the company tells the employee which customers to visit, and what times to visit them. The homeowner is the first of five customers whom the employee is scheduled to visit that day.

The homeowner’s house has two stories, and the employee finishes the work while on the second floor. The employee then starts to walk down the stairs. A handrail is attached to the wall along the stairs. The handrail rests on top of a series of brackets that are mounted to the wall with screws. At first glance, the handrail appears to be in usable condition. However, anyone who bent down to examine the mounting brackets would be able to see that most of the screws have pulled partway out of the wall. Consequently, the handrail is extremely loose. 

The homeowner knows of this problem, but does not mention it to the employee. The employee does not inspect the mounting brackets, and does not know that the handrail is loose. Halfway down the stairs, the employee stumbles and grabs the handrail. The handrail breaks away from the wall, causing the employee to fall down the stairs and sustain injuries. 

The employee’s injuries are mainly sprains and bruises that do not incapacitate the employee. Accordingly, the employee decides to continue to the next customer’s house. While driving to the house, the employee sees a drugstore immediately adjacent to the street. This reminds the employee to buy a birthday card for his spouse. The employee turns directly from the street into the drugstore’s parking lot. The employee drives negligently while looking for a parking space. As a result of this negligent driving, the company truck collides with a car in the parking lot. The accident damages the car and injures the driver.

The employee sues the homeowner for personal injury. The driver of the car sues the employee for personal injury and property damage. The driver also names the pest-control company as a defendant, seeking to hold the company liable on a theory of respondeat superior.


Questions

  1. Did the homeowner breach any duty owed to the employee? Explain.
  2. Assuming that the employee is liable to the driver, is the company liable to the driver under respondeat superior? Explain.

Question 1

Did the homeowner breach any duty owed to the employee? Explain.

Question 2

Assuming that the employee is liable to the driver, is the company liable to the driver under respondeat superior? Explain.

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