Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was convicted selling liquor after hours at a tavern that she was the registered agent of. Defendant argues that her employee was not acting within the scope of his employment or alternatively that the statute did not intend for vicarious criminal liability to attach.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Unless criminal liability is imposed on the designated agent, a natural person could avoid liability by simply incorporating a business.
Defendant and her husband are the sole shareholders in a corporation with a liquor license. Defendant is the designated agent for the company. One morning, the police noticed three individuals located in the tavern owned by Defendant drinking. The tavern manager was one of the individuals located in the tavern. Defendant was charged with keeping the tavern open after hours. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. The Appellate Court affirmed and Defendant timely appealed.
Issue. Whether the statute imposes vicarious criminal liability on a designated agent for the illegal conduct of the tavern manager.
Historically, vicarious criminal liability has been imposed employers for their employee’s illegal conduct. It logically follows that a corporation licensee should be similarly liable for the illegal conduct of its employees.
Unless vicarious criminal liability is imposed on the designated agent, a natural person could avoid liability by simply incorporating a business.
Dissent. Points of Law - for Law School Success
Such deviation or stepping aside from his employer's business may be momentary and slight, measured in terms of time and space, but if it involves a change of mental attitude in serving his personal interests, or the interests of another instead of his employer's, then his conduct falls outside the scope of his employment. View Full Point of Law
The dissent focused on the argument that the tavern manager was acting within the scope of his employment when he allowed the sale of alcohol in violation of the statute. If the employee was not acting within the scope of his employment, then no liability could be imputed to Defendant. Discussion.
The Court started by reviewing the statute and determining that there was no specific language imposing vicarious liability on Defendant. However, the court noted that there was a long line of cases involving the sale of alcohol and imposing vicarious criminal liability on the licensee for illegal conduct by employees. The court also found that the employee was within the scope of his employment because his job was to sell alcohol and manage the tavern. Because he was at the tavern doing his job, the Court found him within the scope of his employment.