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Lynne Meyer, on her way to a business meeting and in a hurry, stopped by a Buy-Mart store for a new car charger for her smartphone. There was a long line at one of the checkout counters, but a cashier, Valerie Watts, opened another counter and began loading the cash drawer. Meyer told Watts that she was in a hurry and asked Watts to work faster. Watts, however, only slowed her pace. At this point, Meyer hit Watts. It is not clear whether Meyer hit Watts intentionally or, in an attempt to retrieve the car charger, hit her inadvertently. In response, Watts grabbed Meyer by the hair and hit her repeatedly in the back of the head, while Meyer screamed for help. Management personnel separated the two women and questioned them about the incident. Watts was immediately fired for violating the store’s no-fighting policy. Meyer subsequently sued Buy-Mart, alleging that the store was liable for the tort (assault and battery) committed by its employee. Using the information presented in the chapter, answer the following questions.

  1. Under what doctrine discussed in this chapter might Buy-Mart be held liable for the tort committed by Watts?
  2. What is the key factor in determining whether Buy-Mart is liable under this doctrine?
  3. Did Watts’s behavior constitute an intentional tort or a tort of negligence? How would this differ-ence affect Buy-Mart’s potential liability
  4. Suppose that when Watts applied for the job at Buy-Mart, she disclosed in her application that she had previously been convicted of felony assault and battery. Nevertheless, Buy-Mart hired Watts as a cashier. How might this fact affect Buy-Mart’s liability for Watts’s actions

Debate This:

The doctrine of respondeat superior should be modified to make agents solely liable for some of their own tortious (wrongful) acts

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