A teenage driver was intoxicated when he was involved in a hit and run accident with a woman and her daughter. The woman’s husband was driving nearby and witnessed the collision. The family filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and his employer, Sergio’s El Ranchito (a restaurant). The court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, and the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District affirmed the judgment in this California car accident case.On appeal, the family did not challenge the court’s legal analysis of the issues. Instead, they maintained that the court should reverse the judgment because the ruling was based on procedural defects. Namely, the restaurant’s moving papers did not specifically address the negligent supervision allegations and therefore did not properly shift the burden of proof to the family. Additionally, they contended the restaurant’s efforts to address negligent supervision for the first time in its reply brief were improper, and the trial court should not have considered this argument when deciding the motion for summary judgment. The appeals court concluded that neither contention had merit.
The complaint alleged the restaurant negligently supervised its underage employees because the driver either had access to, or was directly provided, alcoholic beverages on the premises. Thus, the family’s theory for recovery was that the restaurant should have known their unsupervised underage employees were going to drink while at work, and therefore it was foreseeable they would drive while intoxicated and injure a third party. To prove this claim, the family needed proof the restaurant was aware the underage employees had access to, or were provided, alcohol during work hours, and it failed to adequately supervise these underage employees by locking up the alcohol.
The appeals court concluded that the restaurant’s moving papers adequately addressed the negligent supervision allegation raised in the complaint. The restaurant satisfied its initial burden by showing the family’s discovery responses were inadequate to prove negligent supervision. Although the restaurant did not use the words “negligent supervision” in the moving papers, it did discuss the total lack of evidence supporting all allegations in the complaint. It argued there was no evidence suggesting liability under any direct theory of liability or vicarious liability. The separate statement of undisputed facts noted there was no evidence the driver became intoxicated while at work or after his shift. In addition, the separate statement explained why there was nothing to support the allegation the driver was coming from work when he was driving while intoxicated. The restaurant affirmatively established it had policies and procedures in place to prevent employees from consuming alcohol while at work. Absent evidence to the contrary, it could be inferred the restaurant did not know or expect the driver or other employees were violating the terms of their employment.