It is not normally within the scope of an employee’s authority to commit an assault, and relatively few cases impose liability on an employer for an employee’s assault. The default rule is that when an employee commits an assault, the employee ceases to act for his employer and the employee commits the assault only in furtherance of his own business or pleasure. But when the nature of the employment is such that the employer authorized the employee to use force or the employee’s assault was foreseeable to the employer, the employer may be liable for the employee’s assault.
In Houston Transit Company v. Felder in 1948, the Texas Supreme Court was confronted with the question of whether a bus company could be liable for a bus driver’s assault on a motorist who had crashed into the driver’s bus. During an argument between the bus driver and the motorist after the crash, the bus driver struck the motorist in the face with a money change box. The Texas Supreme Court held that the trier of fact should be allowed to determine whether the bus driver’s assault was committed in the course and scope of his employment. The court reasoned that the bus company could be liable for the assault if the assault was so connected with, and immediately grew out of another act of the bus driver that was authorized by the bus company.