Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case discussing the doctrine of respondeat superior and the attendant “going and coming” doctrine. The case is illustrative of several key principles that often arise in the course of Maryland car accident cases, including the general determination of when an employer can be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee.
The Facts of the Case
An employee of the defendant corporation was driving to work early in the morning when he caused a collision, killing the passenger in the other vehicle. The family of the deceased passenger filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the employee as well as his employer. This case deals with the issue of whether the employer can be held liable for the employee’s allegedly negligent actions.
The employee was not scheduled for work that morning. After the accident, the employee told the responding police officer that he was on his way to work to collect resumes for some upcoming interviews that he had. However, while the employee had conducted several interviews earlier in the week, it was not verified that the employee had scheduled any upcoming interviews. Throughout the proceeding, the employee’s story changed slightly several times.
At the time of the accident, the employee was operating his own vehicle. Indeed, the defendant corporation did not require that the employee have a vehicle and at no time urged the employee to come into work that day.
The plaintiff’s case against the employer was based on the doctrine of respondeat superior, which allows an accident victim to hold an employer responsible for the negligent acts of an employee. However, the employer asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit against it because there was no evidence that the employee was operating within his capacity as an employee at the time.
The court agreed with the employer, finding that it could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s loss under the specific circumstances of the case. The court explained that while the scope of employment is broadly defined under state law, under the “going and coming” rule, employers are not liable for accidents occurring during an employee’s commute.
Here, notwithstanding the employee’s changing stories, the court found that the employee was on his way to work. Thus, under the “going and coming” rule, the employer would not generally be held liable. The plaintiff asked the court to apply an exception, arguing that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment because he was engaging in a “special errand.” However, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument because there was no evidence that the employer specifically requested that the employee make the special trip into the office that day.
As a result of the court’s decision, the employer cannot be held liable for the loss of the plaintiffs’ loved one.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the situation, there may be more than one responsible party, increasing your chances of obtaining full compensation for your injuries or loss. The dedicated Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims and their families in a wide range of Maryland personal injury cases, and they know what it takes to be successful on their clients’ behalf. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Plaintiff Injured by Fallen Tree Permitted to Proceed with Claim Against Apartment Complex, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 9, 2017.
Settlement Agreements in Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuits, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 23, 2017.