Turberville v Stampe

Turberville v Stampe
Citation(s) (1697) 91 ER 1072
Case opinions
Chief Justice Holt
Vicarious liability

Turberville v Stampe (1697) 91 ER 1072 is an English tort law case concerning vicarious liability, also known as the respondeat superior doctrine.


The employee or "servant" of the defendant negligently began a fire which spread to and damaged a neighbour's house. The master argued he was not responsible because he was not personally at fault. Moreover he had directed the employee the proper method of lighting fires, orders which were not followed.


Lord Chief Justice Holt gave judgment.

as man ought to keep the fire in his field, as well from the doing of damage to his neighbour as if it were in his house… if a stranger set fire to my house, and it burns my neighbour’s house, no action will lie against me… But if my servant throws dirt into the highway, I am indictable. So in this case if the defendant’s servant kindled the fire in the way of husbandry and proper for his employment, though he had no express command of his master, yet his master shall be liable to an action for damage done to another by the fire; for it shall be intended, that the servant had authority from his master, it being for the master’s benefit.


Holt carried this broad vicarious liability into the commercial setting, noting that ‘the master at his peril ought to take care what servant he employs; and it is more reasonable, that [the master] should suffer for the cheats of his servant than strangers’ (ibid., 91 ER 797)

See also

More from Holt
On liability for strangers and acts of God emanating from land
On vicarious liability


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