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My boss wants me to pay for damages
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My boss wants me to pay for damages

Dear mirror lawyer, I am a 24-year-old mechanic at Odawna, Accra.

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About two months ago, my boss brought five cars to our repair garage for me to work on.

Two of the cars had gas leaks and the rest had some minor faults which could be fixed quickly. My boss instructed me to work on the ones with the gas leaks first because the customers needed their cars as soon as possible.

Upon examination, I discovered that one of the two cars had other faults apart from the gas leaks. When I informed my boss, he told me to work on all the faults I had found. I did the best I could.

The client came for his car later that week but for some unexplained reasons, the car refused to start.  The client became angry and started shouting and claiming that we had damaged his car and that we would pay dearly.

My boss then stated that I was the one who had worked on the car so I was the one responsible for the cost of the damage to the car. The client then angrily told me that I owed him GH¢15,000 for the damage to the car.

I cannot afford that amount and I am very worried as I only acted on the instructions of my boss as I always do. How do I get out of this?
Moses Okine, Adabraka.

Dear Moses, the facts of your case fall under the branch of the law of torts called vicarious liability. Vicarious liability is a legal rule that holds a person responsible for actions committed by others or by their employees.

Vicarious liability can apply in any situation where one person or company is in control of the actions of another or where an individual is acting on behalf of someone else. An employer can be vicariously liable for the harmful actions of an employee if the employee was in the business at the time of the incident and the employee caused harm while performing an activity he was hired to perform.

The law is settled that if an employee causes injury or damage in the cause of his employment, his employer, who is responsible for training him properly to ensure that no such injury or damage occurs, would be held vicariously liable to the third party.

From the facts presented, you acted on the instructions of your boss to repair the gas leakage on the vehicle and any other faults you discovered upon examination of the vehicle.

This assignment was given to you during normal working hours. The work was also done under the supervision of your boss. There is no doubt in my mind that your boss is the one responsible for the damage caused to the vehicle and not you. He is vicariously liable for your actions during your employment.

In the Ghanaian case of Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance (Ghana) Ltd. V. Appiah [1984-86] 1 Glr 52, Appiah brought an action for damages for injuries she sustained in a motor accident at Nsawam caused wholly by the negligent driving of the driver, a servant of the appellants, who died in the accident.

The court found that at the time of the accident, the driver was driving in the course of his employment with the company and found the employers liable. The employer of the driver appealed on the grounds that the driver was not authorised to go to Nsawam, where the accident occurred. 

The Court of Appeal held that since the driver was doing the job he was employed to do, it implies that he was authorised by the appellants to take the car out and use his discretion to perform the task he was assigned to do and so the employers would be vicariously liable for any wrongful acts of the driver.

In this case, your boss is responsible for the damage to the car, not you, as he is responsible for your actions because of the employer-employee relationship between you.

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