In some cases, employers can be held responsible for their employees’ actions, including Texas car accidents involving employees. In a recent decision, a Texas appeals court considered the employer’s responsibility after its employee was involved in a car accident. The plaintiff was in a car accident with a moving company’s employee, which resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. The employee made a left turn across a four-lane highway as she was leaving a parking lot. The plaintiff was unable to avoid the employee’s car and drove into the left side of the employee’s car. The employee was cited for failing to yield the right of way.
The plaintiff sued the moving company, alleging it was vicariously liable for the employee’s negligence. The plaintiff also alleged that the moving company failed to properly supervise its employee, negligently hired the employee, and negligently retained the employee, among other claims. The moving company argued the case should be dismissed because the employee was not acting in the course and scope of her employment with the company at the time of the collision.
Vicarious liability refers to the liability of an employer or another responsible party for the actions of another person. Under one type of vicarious liability, known as respondeat superior, an employer may be held liable for the negligent acts of its employee if the employee’s actions fall within the course and scope of the employee’s employment. According to Texas law, an employee’s acts must be within the scope of the employee’s general authority, in furtherance of the employer’s business, and taken to accomplish a task for which the employee was hired. In addition, generally an employee is not in the course and scope of employment while driving to and from work.
The Court’s Decision
The employee was employed by the moving company as an outside salesperson, which included attracting new business and maintaining existing business accounts. The employee drove her own car but placed magnetic signs on the doors of her car, and she received a monthly allowance for the use of her personal vehicle. At the time of the collision, the employee was leaving the parking lot of a customer.
According to the employee’s testimony, it was her last visit of the day, and she was leaving at around 7 pm She testified that she left after business hours and was on her way home. The employee’s supervisor testified that business hours were from 8 am to 5 pm for all personnel. The supervisor also testified that if an outside salesperson needed to work past regular business hours, the salesperson was required to contact her supervisor, and if the salesperson failed to do so, the work beyond regular business hours was not authorized. In this instance, the employee did not request or receive authorization to work beyond regular business hours.
In this case, the court found that the employee was driving home from work, and thus she was not within the scope of her employment. In addition, the company did not direct or allow the employee to remain with a client past normal business hours. Therefore, the company was not responsible for the employee’s actions, and the case was dismissed.
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