California Court of Appeals Upholds Decision in Respondeat Superior Car Accident Case

In a recent California Court of Appeals case, Maiello v. LA Digital Post, Cal. Ct. App. (2015), the court heard the appeal from the granting of summary judgment stemming from a car accident case.

On the day of the alleged incident, the plaintiff was involved in a car accident with an employee of the LA Digital Post. The employee was reportedly on her way back to work following a doctor’s appointment, which she had attended during her lunch break. The plaintiff had filed a negligence claim against LA Digital, under the legal theory of respondeat superior, under which employers can be held liable for the negligent acts of their employees. The trial court granted LA Digital’s motion for summary judgment, denying liability for the employee’s accident.

In order for respondeat superior liability to attach, there must be “a nexus between the employee’s tort and the employment to ensure that liability is properly placed upon the employer.” Here, the plaintiff tried to argue that because the employee would make deposits and trips to the bank on the employer’s behalf, the car accident implicated the use of the car, which was used in the course of her employment for the employer’s benefit. Thus, since the vehicle required for employment was the one involved in the accident, the employer should be held liable for damages.

It is generally accepted that an employee on a break period is not committing an act within the scope of employment. Sometimes, if the employee’s car is a condition of employment, or otherwise required for or used in relation to employment, thus conferring some sort of benefit upon the employer, an accident involving the car may fall within the rule.

There is an additional so-called “special errand” form of liability, whereby, if the employee is engaged in a special errand for the employer’s benefit and then becomes involved in an accident, liability may be implicated.

Interestingly, the employer conceded that the fact that the employee’s car was required for work may have implicated liability if the car was involved in an accident on her way to work, but that since the accident occurred during a lunch break period, the chain of liability was broken. The court agreed.

Therefore, since the employee’s travel was related solely to her personal business, on her lunch break, it did not implicate liability on the employer’s part, and therefore the lower court judgment against the plaintiff was affirmed.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to understand your rights so that you can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Sharifi Firm, APC have significant experience in handling car accident cases throughout California.  If you have been involved in a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website, or by calling (866) 422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Enters Decision on Car Accident Case Anti-SLAPP Motion, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 7, 2015

California Court of Appeals Rules on Trucking Accident Workers’ Compensation Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 4, 2015

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