Vampire Servant Liability

Vampires stories often have human servants to do the vampire’s bidding. In What We Do in the Shadows, the vampire Deacon employs his human servant Jackie to iron shirts, schedule night dental appointments, and lure co-eds to be a meal for Deacon and his flat mates. What is Jackie’s liability for Deacon’s feeding off humans?

If this were a normal employment case, the concept of “Respondeat Superior” would hold an employer responsible for the actions of the employee. The term means “let the superior answer.” Black’s Law Dictionary App, 9th Edition.

In California, “a principal is responsible to third persons for the negligence of his agent in the transaction of the business of the agency, including wrongful acts committed by such agent in and as a part of the transaction of such business, and for his willful omission to fulfill the obligations of the principal.” Cal Civ Code § 2338.

This is not a normal employment case between a master and agent. First off, leading people to a final meal of canned spaghetti before being murdered is a crime. Secondly, holding the servant responsible for the master’s actions flips the doctrine of Respondeat Superior.

The vintage language of “master and servant” might define Deacon and Jackie’s relationship, but today it would be called a criminal conspiracy. A conspiracy is when two or more people conspire to commit a crime. Cal Pen Code § 182(a)(1). Planning to drain two human beings of blood would be murder (the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought). Cal Pen Code § 187.

Jackie only led victims to Deacon’s flat and did not actually participate in killing anyone. However, Jackie could be charged for murder, despite NOT personally killing someone. When there is a conspiracy to commit murder, the punishment is the same as committing first-degree murder. See, Cal Pen Code § 182. Moreover, Jackie took multiple overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, from finding people to take the vampires’ home, entering the home with the victims, and leaving the property before the victims were killed. All of these actions are overt acts that would subject her to prosecution for murder.

Some vampire servants might argue the insanity defense, claiming that the vampire had the servant under hypnosis to do the vampire’s bidding. This would fail in Jackie’s case, as the housewife acted as a servant in exchange for being turned into a vampire herself at a future date.

As I have made clear in the past, I despise sparkling teenage vampire stories. What We Do in the Shadows is a fun horror-comedy. Check it out.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.