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Liability for torts committed by other

A person may be liable in respect of wrongful acts or omissions of another in three ways:

  1. As having ratified or authorized the particular act:
  2. As standing towards the other person in a relation entailing responsibility for wrongs done by that per- son though not specifically authorised, and even, in some cases, though expressly forbidden : and
  3. As having abetted the tortious acts committed by others.


It is a known and well-established rule of law, that an act done for another by a person not assuming to act for himself, but for such other person, though without any precedent authority whatever, becomes the act of the principal if subsequently ratified by him. In that case the principal is bound by the act, whether it be for his detriment or advantage, to the same extent, and with all the consequences which follow from the same act if done by his previous authority.1) Omnis ratihabitio retrotrahitur et mandato priori aequiparatur (every ratification of an act relates back and thereupon becomes equivalent to a previous request). Only such acts bind a principal by sub sequent ratification as were done at the time on the principal's behalf.2) What is done by a person on his own account cannot be effectually adopted by another. The doctrine of ratification may thus briefly be presented:

  1. If A commit a trespass, whether to the person or to property, professing at the time to act on behalf of B, though without authority from him, and B afterwards knowingly ratify the trespass, B may thus be rendered liable for it.
  2. If A does a tortious act, either on behalf of him self or as agent for B, and C, with whom A has had no previous communication in regard to it, afterwards ratifies or adopts the act, C will not, by so ratifying or adopting it, incur liability ex delicto in respect of it.

To make a man trespasser by relation, from having ratified an act of trespass done in his name and for his benefit, it must be shown that the act was ratified by him with full knowledge of its being a trespass, or of its being tortious, or it must be shown that in ratifying and taking the benefit of the act he meant to take upon himself, with out inquiry, the risk of any irregularity which might have been committed, and to adopt the transaction, right or wrong.3)

Ratification of a tort by a principal will not free the agent from his responsibility to third persons.

Where a landlord authorized bailiffs to distrain for rent due to him from his tenant of a farm, expressly directing them not, to take anything except on the demised premises ; and the bailiffs, however, distrained cattle belonging to another person, supposing them to be the tenant's beyond the boundary of the farm ; and the cattle were sold and the landlord received the proceeds it was held that the landlord was not liable for the value of the cattle unless it were found that he had ratified the acts of the bailiffs with knowledge of the irregularity, or unless it were found that he chose, without enquiry to take the risk upon himself, and to adopt the whole of their acts.4)

Indian cases: The plaintiff let a cargo boat to U, who had been employed by the defendants to land certain goods. During the landing of the goods a dispute arose between him and the plaintiff as to the terms of the hiring, and the plaintiff refused to give up 53 bales of goods still on board. U, and an assistant of the defendants, forcibly took the bales; without satisfying the plaintiff's lien thereon, and the defendants received them into their godowns. The defendants had received the bales into their godowns without knowing how they had been obtained. Held, that in the absence of of such knowledge on their part, the receipt of the goods did not amount to a ratification of the wrongful act of their assistant and U, so as to render them liable.5) Where the evidence showed that certain acts of trespass by one of the defendants were for the benefit and on behalf of the members of the committee, and were afterwards adopted and taken advantage of by them when they had acquired a full knowledge of those acts, the defend, ants for whose benefit the acts were done were liable for the trespass.6)

Liability by relation

Under this head comes the liability arising from relation such as that of

  1. Guardian and Ward.
  2. Husband and Wife.

Guardian and Ward: Guardians are not personally liable for torts committed by minors under their charge.7) But guardians can sue for personal injuries to minors under their charge on their behalf.8)

Husband and Wife: See Personal Disabilities in Law of Torts.

1) , 2)
Wilson v. Tumman
Rani Shamasundari Y. Dukhu Mandal
Lewis v. Reade
Girish Chandra Das v. Gillanders & Co.
Venkata Naiker v. Srinivassa
Luchman Dass v. Narayan
Modhoo Soodun V. Kaemoollah

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