Frolic & Detour Case Law – Legal Process Breakdown

Your employer asks you to pick up some supplies at a nearby store. On the way, you make a slight detour to the post office to grab your personal mail. Unfortunately, you accidentally ran into somebody while turning the corner in the post office. Moreover, that person sustained injuries due to the incident. In this case, who’s liable for their injuries, you as the employee or your employer? Frolic and detour case law aims to answer this question as well as questions of employee-employer liability. Read on as we define frolic and detour, how vicarious liability plays a role, and what determines frolic and detour.

What Is Frolic and Detour?

Incidents of frolic and detour occur when an employee deviates from the task or requests of an employer. Due to this deviation, the employee causes damages or injuries to another individual in the process. In most cases, employers are generally liable for any damages caused by their employees. However, because the employee acted ‘outside the scope’ of his or her regular employment obligations, they could potentially be held liable for these damages.  What constitutes as ‘frolic’ versus ‘detour’ will depend on whether the departure from the employee’s tasks was major or minor in nature. 

What Does Frolic Mean?

The frolic definition is when an employee participates in an activity totally unrelated to his work duties. If while partaking in this activity the employee injures someone, the employee could be held liable, rather than the employer. An example of frolicking would be if a courier driver employee skips work for a couple of hours to catch a movie. On his way to the movie, the employee runs into a pedestrian, causing injuries.  In this instance, the frolic meaning is evident. Even though the courier driver is still getting paid and is within work hours, he or she is held liable since the movie is totally unrelated to their work duties. 

What Does Detour Mean?

The detour definition is when an employee participates in an activity that is unrelated to their job duties, but the departure is minor in nature. In the above example of the courier driver employee, say the driver is en route to dropping off a work-related package. On the way there, the employee makes a quick stop at a fast-food drive-thru since he or she skipped lunch. When pulling out of the drive-thru, the driver hits a pedestrian, causing injuries.  Since the driver was on the way, and the detour was relatively minor, the employer could potentially be liable for damages incurred by the employee.

Vicarious Liability

Frolic and detour operate on the legal theory of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability stipulates that an individual is responsible for the actions of another individual.  In the case of employer-employee relationships, the employer is partially or fully liable for the actions of their employees. The basis for the employer taking on the liability is because the employee is essentially working for the interests of the employer. An exception to the legal theory of vicarious liability is a frolic and detour. If an incident was deemed a frolic and detour, liability could be shifted from the employer to the employee.

What Is the Scope of Employment?

The scope of employment refers to activities that employers can reasonably expect from employees during employment. These activities can be obvious and spelled out in a job description. However, the scope of employment can also cover activities not explicitly detailed in the job description. If activities further the interests of the employer, it can still be considered part of the scope of employment. The scope of employment is a key factor in determining whether an employee or the employer should be liable for an incident resulting in injuries. If an employee was operating outside their scope of employment, a case of frolic and detour could be made against them.

How to Determine Frolic and Detour

The courts will consider a variety of factors when determining frolic and detour:

  • Scope of employment: As discussed, the courts will want to know whether the employees were operating within the scope of employment during the incident.
  • Time frame: How long was the employee away from work during the incident? Was the departure during working hours?
  • Location: Did the incident take place at a location within the confines of the scope of employment? 
  • Personal or company interest: What was the purpose of the detour, personal, or business-related?
  • Foreseeability: Is it reasonable for an employer to foresee an employee taking this particular detour? For example, taking clients out after-hours for drinks or eating lunch offsite could be reasonably anticipated in most jobs.

The repercussions can be significant if an employee was found to have engaged in a frolic and detour. Careers, money, and reputation could all be on the line for the employee. 

Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney

If you’ve been injured by an employee while they were on the job, it’s always a good idea to speak with a personal injury attorney. A personal injury attorney will have extensive knowledge of the nuances of liability laws governing employee-employer relationships. With this expertise, they’ll help you determine whether you have a case against the employer for your injuries. As discussed, in some cases, you can even seek compensation from the employee directly.

Valiente Mott

Valiente Mott is a Las Vegas personal injury attorney firm dedicated to representing victims suffering from injuries due to workplace incidents, car accidents, product liability, and more. Contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation! You can also call us at 702-623-2323 to speak with a member of our team. 

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