There are several legal issues arising from the third scenario. First is whether the employer, the Lazy River, Inc. is liable for Lucy’s failure to adhere to reasonable commands directed to her by her boss Mike. The second issue is whether the sixteen (16) year old worker was an independent contractor, if so, whether it is the employer or the hiring party that is liable for injuries to the independent contractor. The third issue is that of negligence. That is, whether the company was negligent for failure to foresee that the toxic chemicals present in water could cause injury to the employees or customers if they were to fall in the water.
Regarding the first issue, in law an employer is liable for the acts of the employee under the doctrine of respondent superior. This doctrine holds a person liable for the acts of another based on their association. In an employer-employee relationship akin to that existing between Mike and Lucy, the doctrine may suffice but only where the actions of the employee were within the scope of her employment relationship. An employer has the right to control the place, time and method of doing work. As such, Mike was well within his rights to give instructions to Lucy regarding the persons who may be allowed to ride the lazy river. Lucy was under a duty to follow those instructions. When Lucy failed to adhere to reasonable instructions by allowing persons under the age of eighteen (18) on the ride, she committed an insubordination hence the company may not be liable for the injuries sustained by the sixteen year old worker and the friend. However, Lucy may be held liable.
As regards whether the sixteen year old worker was an independent contractor, the law considers a worker to be an independent contractor when a person contracts to work for another according to her own procedures and approaches. The sixteen year old can therefore be held to have been an independent contractor and the hiring party in this case would be Lucy. As to who may be held liable for the negligent acts of the sixteen year old worker is a matter of construction.
Generally, the person hiring is not answerable for the negligence of an independent contractor. However, the law of tort ascertains exceptions to this rule. A hiring party can be held accountable where his or her failure to exercise reasonable care to employ and retain a competent contractor resulted in physical harm to a third party. Taking this into consideration,
Lucy may be liable for the injuries of the worker’s friend.
where it can be established that the worker was acting in accordance to the instructions given to him or her negligently by Lucy as the hiring party, Lucy may be liable. Irrespective of the exceptions the liability of Lucy is greatly reduced if she had hired the sixteen year old worker as independent contractor rather than an employee.
Even if the worker was an independent contractor the company may be liable under strict liability. If the case is that of strict liability, the employer may be liable even in cases where the tort is as a result of the negligent act of the independent contractor. It is the duty of the employer to keep the work environment reasonably safe.
The aspect of foreseeability in the law of tort is important in determining liability for negligence. In the instant case, foreseeability would help in determining whether the harm sustained by the worker and the friend as a result of falling into the water could reasonably have been predicted. In this scenario it was reasonably predictable that if a person fell into the water they could be injured owing to the presence of toxic chemicals in the water. It is therefore possible to hold that the company failed to take reasonable care to avert any dangers that the contaminated water posed to its customers. The company may have put barriers to prevent anyone from falling into the water regardless of their age. The worker and his friend can seek compensation from the company for negligence.