Beard v London Omnibus Co [1900] 2 QB 530

Employer’s vicarious liability for an employee’s negligent act outside his scope of employment.

Facts

The conductor of an omnibus drove the omnibus through side streets, outside of the bus route, at a fast pace in the absence of the bus driver. In doing so, he negligently hit and injured a man. The man sued for damages from the owners of the omnibus.

Issue

The issue arose as to upon whom the burden of proof lay to show whether the conductor was acting within the scope of his employment and whether, accordingly, the employer will be held liable for the injury caused to the man due to his negligent acts.

Held

The Claimant failed to discharge the burden of proof to show that the employer of the conductor was liable for the conductor’s negligent acts. The Court held that “the onus of proof lay on the plaintiff to shew that such an act was within the authority of the conductor” (p 533). The Claimant did provide sufficient evidence to show that the conductor was acting within his scope of the employment. To the contrary, evidence concerning, for example, the way in which the conductor was on side streets and not on the usual bus route, shows that he was acting outside of his scope of employment. Therefore, the employer cannot be held responsible for the negligence of the conductor.