Ira S. Bushey & Sons, Inc. v. United States

398 F.2d 167 (2d Cir. 1968)



What is reasonably foreseeable in this context of respondeat superior is quite a different thing from the foreseeably unreasonable risk of harm that spells negligence. The foresight that should impel the prudent man to take precautions is not the same measure as that by which he should perceive the harm likely to flow from his long-run activity in spite of all reasonable precautions on his own part. An employer should be held to expect risks, to the public also, which arise out of and in the course of' his employment of labor.


The plaintiff was an owner of a drydock which harbored the defendant federal government’s ship. Defendant's employee, a ship crewmember, returned to the drydock after a night of drinking. For some reason, he opened three water intake valves, which flooded the area and caused the ship to fall and destroy parts of the drydock. The trial court granted judgment in plaintiff's favor without determining damages. Defendant appealed claiming defendant was not liable where the crewmember's acts were not within the scope of his employment


Can the federal government be held responsible for the actions of its employees that were done outside the scope of their duties?




The court held that although the actions of defendant’s employee were not within the scope of his employment, the defendant should still be liable for damages under respondeat superior if the said actions were done during the course of the employment. Liability can be properly imposed where it is reasonably foreseeable that an employee may cause some damage, whether intentional or not.

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