Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Texas car accident case discussing whether the plaintiff’s case against an allegedly negligent driver’s employer should proceed to trial where the accident occurred while the employee was not on-the-clock. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant employer’s no-evidence motion was properly granted because the plaintiff could not establish that the driver was acting in the performance of his duties as an employee of the defendant at the time of the accident.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured when a truck collided with his vehicle. The plaintiff initially filed a lawsuit against the driver, but later withdrew that case after filing a lawsuit against the driver’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the employer was vicariously liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
The evidence showed that the employee had recently left the work site for the day, and was giving a co-worker a ride back to his hotel. On the way back from the job site, the employee stopped to show his co-worker the site of a future job. As the employee turned into the future job site, he struck the plaintiff’s car. It was also established that the defendant paid for the employee’s gas.
The defendant employer filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff presented no evidence establishing that the driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The employer submitted the testimony of the employee driver as well as his co-worker, both of whom claimed that they had left work for the day, were not on-the-clock, and were just stopping by the future job site to take a look. They explained that they were not going to get out of the vehicle, and that no other employees were accompanying them.
The Court’s Decision
The court determined that the lower court was correct to grant the defendant’s motion. The court explained that in a Texas vicarious liability case against an employer, the plaintiff must prove that the at-fault party was both an actual employee of the defendant employer and also that the employee was acting within the scope of their employment.
Here, while it was uncontested that the driver was an employee, the court held that the plaintiff presented no evidence that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the collision. The court explained that without evidence that the employee was hired to transport other workers to and from the job site, the fact that the employee was giving a ride to a co-worker did not turn what was otherwise the employee’s commute into an act within the scope of his employment.
Have You Been Injured in a Texas Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Texas car accident, the San Antonio personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Carabin Shaw can help. At Carabin Shaw we represent injury victims and their families in all types of Texas injury claims in the San Antonio area and across the state. We are proud to offer free consultations to all accident victims to discuss how we can help pursue a claim for compensation against the parties responsible for your injuries. To learn more, call 800-862-1260 to schedule a free consultation.
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