Georgia Court of Appeals Provides Some Relief for Injured in Car Accident Involving an Employer Vehicle

A Georgia woman was injured in a car accident by a man driving his employer’s vehicle. The man was on his way to work in the company truck provided to him so he can drive to client homes at anytime. On the day of the injury he drove to work to receive assignments for the day and failed to yield to oncoming traffic at a stop sign. The woman sought legal relief from the man’s company, alleging that the company was vicariously liable for the accident that occurred. The woman also alleged that the employer was negligent by hiring the man and entrusting him with the company vehicle. The man had prior DUI convictions and a suspended license, but the company allowed him to have access to the truck. The trial court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment where the employer claimed that the employee was not acting in the scope of his duties. The employer appealed, and the Court of Appeals rendered its decision in Dougherty Equipment Company, Inc. v. Roper, Case #: A14A0620.

truckWhen car accidents occur an employer may be held responsible if the employee has a car accident while driving during the course of employment. This has been established by the legal doctrine of Respondeat Superior which holds employers accountable to those injured by the negligent actions of their employees performed during the course of their employment. In the case above the employer was aware of the man’s driving issues and did not allow him to drive while his license was suspended. While the employer chose to provide the employee with a truck, the Court of Appeals found that there was uncontradicted evidence the employee was not driving the truck while performing work for his employer at the time of the accident. The Court of Appeals reversed that part of the lower court’s denial of summary judgment, but upheld the ruling on negligent entrustment.

The employer could be held liable for negligent entrustment based on its knowledge of the employee’s driving record. The Court of Appeals did not rule whether the employer was ultimately negligent by allowing the employee to drive a company truck, but found there was a legitimate question for a fact finder on whether the entrustment was negligent. The employer had obtained a driving record after the employee’s driver’s license was reinstated, so the company had knowledge of the license suspension and the preceding DUI convictions. The Court of Appeals based their ruling on prior Georgia appellate cases, one of which found that a jury question existed on negligent entrustment when a company vehicle was issued to an employee they knew had multiple traffic citations in one year. (See Smith v. Tommy Roberts Trucking Co., 209 Ga. App. 826, 828-829 (3)(435 SE2d 54) (1993).)

This recent case shows that holding all responsible parties accountable can quickly become complicated.  It is important to have experienced Georgia car accident attorneys who can provide you the aggressive representation you need to maximize the recovery you deserve.  For a free consultation today, call the attorneys at Angell Law Firm to discuss your car accident case.

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