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Fruit v. Schreiner

Citation. Schreiner v. Fruit, 519 P.2d 462 (Alaska 1974)
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Appellant, Fruit (Appellant), was attending social and business events at a required sales convention held by his employer. While returning from an attempt to meet colleagues at a social setting, Appellant struck Appellee #1, John Schreiner’s (Appellee #1) car, crushing Appellee’s legs. Appellee #1 sued both the Appellant and Appellee #2, the Equitable Life Assurance Society (Appellee #2) his employer.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The determination of whether or not an employee is acting within the scope of his employment is determined based on the facts of each case.


The Appellant was required to attend a sales convention conducted by his employer, Appellee #2. The Appellant drove his own car, but was reimbursed for expenses. The Appellant was encouraged to mix freely with out-of-state insurance experts in social as well as business events. On the second evening of the convention Appellant drove to a bar and restaurant to look for out-of-state colleagues. He found none and drove back to the convention center. On his way, he skidded across a highway and struck a disabled vehicle owned by Appellee #1. Appellee #1 was standing in front of his vehicle and his legs were crushed. He brought a personal injury claim against both the Appellant and Appellee #2. The jury found that Appellant was an employee acting within the scope of his employment and that Appellee #2 should be liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior.


Was there sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Appellant was acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident?


Yes. Judgment affirmed.
* Appellee #2 asks the court to narrow the scope of respondeat superior to situations where the master has exercised control over the activities of employees. Two theories in contemporary legal thought are advanced for the doctrine of respondeat superior. These are the control theory and the enterprise theory.
* Under the control theory, liability is imposed whenever the act of the employee was committed with the implied authority, acquiescence or subsequent ratification of the employer. Under the enterprise theory, liability is imposed whenever the enterprise of the employer would have benefited by the act of the employee but for the injury.
* The basis of the respondeat superior is that losses to third persons incident to carrying on a business is included in the costs of operating a business. Insurance allows such costs to be distributed amongst the insured. Acts connected with the business are considered deeds of the business itself.
* In the present case, Appellant’s employment contract required him to attend the sales conference and the scope of the conference included informal socializing. The court found that the jury’s conclusion that Appellant was acting within the course of his employment was reasonable based on the evidence.


The concept of respondeat superior is one of the few exceptions to the general tort doctrine of no liability without fault.

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