Articles Posted in Respondeat Superior

handshakeCalifornia tort law allows employers to be held responsible for the tortious conduct of their employees under certain circumstances. One of the theories under which liability can fall on the employer is when they negligently hire someone that they should have known posed a danger. This also extends to negligent supervision when the employer should have known that the employee needed more supervision than their employer gave them. The California Supreme Court recently addressed some of these issues in a case that centered around whether an employer’s insurance company had to pay claims that arose from these causes of action. If you have been injured by someone else, you may be able to hold their employer responsible for your injuries. A knowledgeable Southern California personal injury attorney can help you to hold all the responsible parties accountable.

 Tortious Conduct

A Southern California school district hired contractors to oversee a building project. One of the contractor’s employees allegedly sexually abused one of the students at the school. Her representatives sued several parties, including the contractors. They alleged that the contractors should be held liable for negligently hiring and supervising the employee who assaulted the student. The contractors reached out to their insurers to defend them against the claims, but the insurance company argued that their policy did not cover this incident.

damaged car
If you injure someone while engaging in your normal job duties, your employer may be able to be held liable for those injuries. This is called “vicarious liability.” The problem is that if you are sometimes required to use your personal vehicle for work and there is an accident, it may not be clear whether there should be vicarious liability or not. This case clarifies when an employer can be held liable through vicarious liability when an employee injures someone while driving their personal vehicle. If you are injured in an accident, it’s important to contact a skilled Southern California personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can help you to figure out who should be held responsible for your injuries, and make sure that all potentially liable parties are, in fact, held responsible.

Facts of the Case

In this case, the driver and owner of the vehicle was an attorney who worked for the County of Los Angeles. As part of his job he would often need to use his personal vehicle to visit clients in jail, go to different courthouses where clients were being tried, and visit crime scenes or meet witnesses. It would have been impossible for him to do his job without using his car relatively frequently. The attorney was eligible to be paid mileage by his employer when he used his car for these purposes.

While riding his bicycle, a victim collided with the door of a driver’s personal vehicle when the driver opened the door. The bicyclist sued the driver and the driver’s employer, alleging negligence and respondeat superior liability. The lower court granted summary judgment in the employer’s favor on the ground that the “going and coming” rule barred employer liability for this California bicycle accident during his commute to work. The bicyclist argued the defendant did not meet its initial burden of production on summary judgment to show the going and coming rule applied. He further argued triable issues of material fact existed as to the rule’s applicability here. The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District held that whether the going and coming rule applied in this case could not be decided as a matter of law; therefore, it reversed the summary judgment.

bicyclist
On October 16, 2014, the driver drove his personally owned Chevrolet Suburban from his home and parked on Brandywine Ave. He stayed in his personal vehicle for a few minutes to gather his phone, wallet, and other items. The victim was riding his bicycle and struck the door of the driver’s personal vehicle as soon as the driver opened it.

He filed suit, alleging he suffered injuries during the accident and pleading a respondeat superior theory. The employer moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it was not liable for the injuries under respondeat superior, and undisputed facts showed the going and coming rule barred the claim. They stated that “Hunt did not have a fixed office location that he commuted to on a regular basis, but instead as a territory manager for A-Z Bus, would regularly drive to his rental vehicle to make sales calls. As such, his company-reimbursed rental vehicle was his ‘fixed place of business’ and his commute to and from the rental car was his normal commute that fell under the going and coming rule.”

Respondent Leopoldo Jorge, Jr. sued Almir Da Fonseca and appellant Culinary Institute of America for injuries suffered when he was hit by a car driven by Da Fonseca, a chef instructor employed by the Institute. Although Da Fonseca had finished his shift at the Culinary Institute and was driving home in his own vehicle at the time of the accident, a jury found the Institute liable for Jorge’s injuries on a theory of respondeat superior. The Culinary Institute moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the ground that Da Fonseca was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. More specifically, it argued that there was no evidence supporting the application of the “required vehicle” exception to the “going and coming” rule, and thus it could not be vicariously liable for Da Fonseca’s negligent conduct while he was commuting home from work. The trial court denied the motion.

car accident

The Culinary Institute appealed, again arguing that it could not be liable to Jorge for injuries caused by Da Fonseca’s negligence because there was no evidence that at the time of the accident, Da Fonseca was acting within the scope of his employment. The California Court of Appeals for the First District agreed and reversed.

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