A court of appeals in California recently released an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit that reversed a jury verdict in favor of a plaintiff who sustained injuries when he was struck by a vehicle being driven by an employee of the defendant as he returned from work. The court found that the jury’s verdict against the employer was not appropriate because the driver was operating his own vehicle and not acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Based on the recent appellate ruling, the plaintiff will be unable to receive the amount that he was awarded by the jury as compensation for the injuries that he suffered in the crash.
The Plaintiff Is Injured by the Defendant’s Employee
The plaintiff in the case of Jorge v. Culinary Institute of America was the family of a teenager who was struck by a driver while he was crossing an intersection on foot and was killed as a result. Through a legal representative, the plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver and his employer, the defendant in this appeal.
Evidently, the driver was returning from work when the accident occurred, and he was driving his own vehicle and was not being paid for his time. After a trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff over $880,000 from the employer as compensation for his injuries. The jury determined that the defendant’s employee was acting within the scope of his employment when he caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
The Defendant Appeals the Verdict
The defendant appealed the trial verdict to the state court of appeals, specifically attacking the jury’s finding that the driver of the vehicle was acting within the scope of his employment when he crashed into the plaintiff. After briefing and argument, the court agreed with the defendant and reversed the jury’s verdict.
The court found that although the driver had occasionally been acting within the scope of his employment while driving his personal vehicle at times in the past when he was traveling for a work-related event, this accident occurred after he had finished working and was returning home. The court found that the driver was not acting within the scope of employment when the accident occurred. The jury’s finding that the driver negligently caused the plaintiff’s injuries was not disturbed, but the court ruled that the employer was not legally liable for the plaintiff’s death.
The Liability of Employers for Accidents Involving Semi-Trucks or Commercial Vehicles
Although the court in the Jorge case found that an employer cannot be accountable for an employee’s negligence on the drive home from work, there are many cases in which a driver’s negligence does occur in the course of employment, and an award would be appropriate. Accidents involving commercial vehicles and semi-trucks are often results of negligence that occurs during the course of the driver’s employment. If an accident is caused by a vehicle that is owned by the employer, and the driver was being paid when it occurred, there is a high likelihood that it happened in the course of employment and that a damages award against the employer is appropriate.
Contact a New Mexico Truck Accident Lawyer to Review Your Case
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an car or truck accident involving a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation from the driver as well as his or her employer. The experienced New Mexico semi-truck accident attorneys at the Fine Law Firm can pursue claims for compensation against all of the parties who may be accountable for your injuries and improve your chances of obtaining all of the compensation you deserve. If you’ve been hurt, contact the Fine Law Firm today at (585) 989-3463 or sign up online to schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Court Applies Good Samaritan Statute in Truck Accident Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 21, 2016.
Federal Court Interprets Insurance Contract in Favor of Insurance Company, Limiting Settlement Amount, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2016.