California Appellate Court Discusses Employer Liability in Recent Car Accident Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a California car accident case involving the allegedly negligent acts of an employee and whether his employer could be held liable for the wrongful death of the plaintiffs’ loved one. After discussing the doctrine of respondeat superior and applying it to the facts of the case, the court ultimately determined that the employer could not legally be responsible for the employee’s actions. Specifically, the court noted that the “going and coming” rule precluded liability because the employee was traveling to work when the accident occurred.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of a woman who was killed when the vehicle in which she was riding was struck by another driver while crossing the San Mateo Bridge. The other driver was employed by the defendant.

On the day of the accident, at around 3:30 a.m., the employee was driving to work in San Francisco when he struck the vehicle carrying the plaintiffs’ loved one. The employee worked the night shift, which began at 7 p.m., and it was undisputed that this trip to work was not for the employee’s regular shift.

Initially, the employee told responding officers that he was on his way to work to collect resumes for some upcoming interviews. The employee also told a friend prior to the accident that he was heading to work to take care of something important. However, during his deposition testimony, the employee provided several different reasons for the trip to work that morning. It was undisputed that the defendant employer did not own the vehicle the employee was driving and that it did not require that the employee have a car or drive to work.

An investigation revealed that the employee had conducted interviews earlier that week and that two candidates had been selected. It was not clearly established whether the employee had any upcoming interviews, although none was marked in his work calendar.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit named the employer as a defendant, as well as the employee. In regard to the employer, the plaintiff’s claim was that the employer was liable for the negligent actions of the employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior because the accident involved actions that were within the scope of the employee’s position at the defendant company.

The employer sought the dismissal of the case against it under the “going and coming” rule, which is an exception to the general rule that an employer can be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee. The rule precludes an employer from being liable for an accident that occurs during an employee’s commute. The court agreed with the defendant, finding that the employee was on his way to work when the accident occurred. In so holding, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the employee was performing a “special errand” for the defendant because there was no evidence that the employer required the employee to make the trip that morning.

Have You Been Injured in a California Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a California car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances of the accident, it may be that several parties are responsible for your injuries. In such cases, it is very important that all potentially liable parties are named in your case as early as possible to avoid an unnecessary delay or the risk of dismissal. To learn more about California accident law, call Sharifi Firm to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Southern California personal injury attorney at 866-422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

Off-Duty Los Angeles Police Officer Arrested after Fatal DUI Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2017

California Car Accident Plaintiff Misses Out on Opportunity to Cross-Examine Defense Medical Expert, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2017

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