Copyright (c) 1998 Western New England Law Review Association, Inc.
Western New England Law Review
ARTICLE: SCOPE OF EMPLOYMENT: HAVE THE RULES CHANGED IN MASSACHUSETTS? *
* Copyright © 1997 by Thomas H. Seymour. All rights reserved.
20 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 211
Thomas H. Seymour **
Employers are generally liable for their employees' torts, under respondeat superior principles, if those torts occur within the employees' "scope of employment." 1 Until quite recently, Massachusetts courts applied, with relative consistency, a three-part test for scope of employment developed by the Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") in Wang Laboratories, Inc. v. Business Incentives, Inc. 2 With Clickner v. City of Lowell, 3 however, the SJC may have signaled a desire to turn away from Wang's approach to scope of employment and to restrict employer liability for employee torts noticeably more than it has in the past. What is troubling about Clickner is that the outcome reached in the case resulted from questionable reasoning; moreover, the court seemed unaware that it had significantly departed from Wang's straight-forward scope of employment test or the implications of that departure. Thus, Clickner may have confused more than clarified Massachusetts scope of employment law.
The first part of this Article analyzes the three elements of the scope of employment test articulated in Wang. The second part discusses the Clickner case and explores the potential ramifications of that decision for scope of employment jurisprudence in Massachusetts.
I. The Wang Scope of Employment Test
In 1977, Wang contracted with Dudley L. Post (whose business was later named Business Incentive, Inc.) to help Wang find ways to save on its taxes. 4 Post's compensation was to be a third of any savings. 5 Over the course of three years Post saved Wang hundreds of thousands of ...
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