You walk past a BBQ joint, look in the window, and see a happy guy with some sauce on the front of his shirt devouring a rack of ribs, and it makes you feel good. There might be a tinge of envy, but you can tell he's enjoying those juicy ribs and you can't help smiling. That’s called vicarious pleasure.

It's the same thing you feel when you see young lovers cuddling on a park bench – unless you're a bit of a prude and feel compelled to shout, “Get a room!”

Vicarious pleasure is no substitute for personal, hands-on, do-it-yourself pleasure, but it's better than nothing, and it certainly beats vicarious discomfort and pain.

It also beats vicarious liability.

Vicarious liability may be the only kind of vicarious pain that is just as bad, if not worse, than the self-driven article. Who wants to be held responsible for something you didn't do, something someone else did wrong on your behalf or in your stead – or, even worse, only allegedly so.

That's the position OCI Beaumont found itself in recently when a litigant tried to hold it responsible for an accident caused by one of its employees off site and off-duty.

Safeway company insulator Yazmin Barajas sued the ammonia and methanol production company among others after she was struck one morning in a nearby parking lot by OCI mechanical engineer Ikechukwu Obodo. OCI doesn't own the lot and Obodo, having just completed his commute, had not clocked in for work yet. Nevertheless, the trial court denied OCI's motion for summary judgment.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, refusing “to hold OCI vicariously liable for Obodo’s allegedly negligent operation of his truck.”

Can you imagine holding employers liable for things employees do away from work on their own time? That would be way too vicarious, and no one would want to  hire anyone anymore.

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Court of Appeals - 9th District of Texas at Beaumont
1001 Pearl Street
Beaumont, TX - 77701

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