Southern California Court Fails to Hold Employer Liable in Car Accident Case

In a recent case, the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth District entered a decision regarding the liability of an individual’s employer for an employee who was involved in a car accident on the way to an employment related course.

In the case, Rodriguez v. Grayd A Metals, Cal. Ct. App. (2015), the two plaintiffs claimed that they were involved in a car accident with an employee of Grayd A Metals, whom was purportedly on the way to a welding class at a local community college at the urging of his employer. The plaintiffs were thus seeking damages under a theory of respondeat superior.

At trial, the plaintiffs alleged that the employee was on the way to a welding class, because they claimed they were told this by another individual whom had been involved in an accident with the same employee just before. The trial court excluded the statement as inadmissible hearsay.

The employer argued on appeal that the granting of summary judgment should be affirmed, because even if it was true that the employee was on the way to a welding class, there was not a sufficient connection between the trip and the employee’s work duties to allow for liability under the theory of respondeat superior.

The first issue discussed by the court of appeals was the admissibility of the statement of the individual involved in the first, minor car accident with the employee (not a party to this case). The trial court ruled that the statement was inadmissible because the declaration did not contain certain boiler plate language that the individual was personally knowledgeable regarding the matter. The court of appeals ruled that this was in error, as there were many other statements in the same document that sufficiently showed the individual was personally knowledgeable. Thus, that ruling was in error.

The court next turned to the issue of whether the fact that the employee, who was encouraged to take work related classes, could properly be considered as doing something within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The court discussed a similar case, in which an employee was travelling to a class, which was part of an employer sponsored educational program.

The court stated, “In analyzing cases of vicarious liability, the inquiry should be whether the risk may fairly be regarded as typical of, or broadly incidental to, the employer’s business.” Relevant to employment cases, the going-and-coming doctrine states an employee is outside the scope of his employment while engaged in the ordinary commute to and from his place of work. However, there is a special errand exception, whereby the employee is engaged in travelling to perform an act that benefits his employer somehow.

In this case, such as the one the court relied on, the plaintiffs did not sufficiently show that the employer was receiving a direct benefit from the employee attending the class. The benefit received is considered to be collateral to the business’ overall day to day functions.

Therefore, the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment 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 Rules on Insurance Issue in Tractor Trailer Wrongful Death Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published March 24, 2015

California Court of Appeals Rules in Car Accident Case Alleging Jury Misconduct with Toy Cars, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published March 20, 2015

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