Václav Janeček, ‘Vicarious Liability of Juristic Persons: A Historical, Comparative and Philosophical Study’

This chapter advances two claims regarding vicarious liability. First, that every legal system must be capable of theoretically devising the idea of vicarious liability (as opposed to direct liability and responsibility). Second, that juristic persons and other artificial legal entities may be liable only vicariously for wrongs committed by other persons, who ultimately must be human beings. To cast new light on the concept of vicarious liability, this chapter analyses the changing relationship of the terms liability (in Czech: ‘ručení’) and responsibility (in Czech: ‘odpovědnost’) in the historical development of Czech law from the beginning of the 19th century until mid-20th century. This development was marked not only by radical changes in the posited law and by the problematic connections of the Czech legal terminology with the German one (especially with the terms Haftung and Verantwortung), but especially by the normative theory of law, internationally known especially thanks to Hans Kelsen’s writings. A peculiarity of the Czech tradition in the normative theory of law (analysed in this chapter primarily through the pioneering work of František Weyr, whose publications are mostly unknown in English-speaking countries) is that it has arrived at the concept of vicarious liability by analysing the abstract nature of legal duties, ie regardless of any positive legal system. This happened already in the 1930s, although the Czech normative theory of law did not take into account any developments in the common law systems with which the concept of ‘vicarious liability’ is typically associated. This chapter presents and develops the ‘normativist’ theory of vicarious liability to arrive at the two main claims as set out above.

Janeček, Václav, Vicarious Liability of Juristic Persons: A Historical, Comparative and Philosophical Study (2018). Forthcoming in K Beran and others, Artificial Legal Entities: Essays on Legal Agency and Liability (Wolters Kluwer 2019) 177-206.

First posted 2019-05-24 06:01:00

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