Court Says Employer Is Liable for Injury Caused by Employee's Vehicle

In many legal actions, employers are held liable for the conduct of their employees. Employers are seen as directing the actions of their employees, and are thus required to share in the bad, not just the good, consequences of those actions.

However, employers are not responsible for all actions of their workers; rather, they are liable only for actions taken within the scope of employment. Actions within the scope of employment usually include those undertaken in the course of performing job duties with at least partial intent to further the employer’s business.

Typically, an employer cannot be held liable for the results of employee endeavors that are considered personal in nature (for instance, running personal errands or commuting to and from work are not normally within the scope of employment). But, according to a new California appellate court decision, an employer can be liable for an accident involving an employee’s personal vehicle under certain circumstances.

California Court of Appeal: Moving Personal Truck Within Scope of Employment

The California case Vogt v. Herron Construction, Inc. concerns a subcontractor, Augustus Vogt, who was run over by a pickup truck at a jobsite. The truck was the personal vehicle of a Herron Construction employee, Jesus Cruz. When it became evident that the truck was parked close to where Vogt was about to start pouring cement, Vogt asked Cruz to move his truck. Move it Cruz did, but in the process he ran Vogt over.

When someone is injured through the fault of another in The Golden State, it is always wise to contact a California personal injury law firm. Vogt did just that, and sought compensation for his substantial injuries from Herron Construction.

A lower court ruled against Vogt on the theory that moving the vehicle was in the personal interest of Cruz. However, this result was reversed in the Court of Appeals of California: in a unanimous ruling, the court decided that Cruz was acting within his job duties because Herron Construction needed him to move his truck in order for Vogt’s crew to complete their work for Herron. Thus, Vogt could proceed in a claim again Herron Construction.

Meaning for Future Lawsuits

The California appellate court victory for Vogt could have broader implications for future personal injury claims. Courts are constantly redefining the limits of employer liability, and their willingness to extend it to a context in which a construction worker was moving a personal vehicle could give those injured through the negligence of another a better chance at recovering the compensation they need.

If you or a loved one has suffered in a car crash or some other type of accident in California, contact a Los Angeles personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights to compensation.


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