In a recent opinion, the California Court of Appeals held it was a question of fact for the jury as to whether an employee was on a business errand while commuting, and as a result, whether the employer could be liable for injuries to a motorcyclist struck by the employee in a collision. The general rule, set forth by the court, is that employees are not within the course and scope of employment while traveling to their workplace. However, California law holds that if an employee is commuting and on an errand for their employer, their conduct falls under the scope of employment.
In this case, a construction company, the defendant, paid an employee for the hours he worked at a job site. The company expected the employee to commute to the company “yard” and drive a company truck to the job site, along with coworkers and materials. While driving from his house to the yard, the employee struck a motorcyclist, who then sued the company.
The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant company on the basis that the employee had been commuting to “work” and was not acting within the scope of employment. But the issue framed by the appellate court was whether the “workplace” was the yard or the job site. If it was the job site, the employee had been on a business errand that benefited the employer.