Texas Court Discusses Vicarious Liability in Car Accident Cases

Many employees are required to drive to and from certain locations as part of their job duties. If an employee subsequently causes a collision while driving for work purposes, both the employee and their employer may be deemed liable for any harm that ensues. Employers will only be held accountable for the negligent acts of their employees in certain circumstances; however, as discussed in Smith et. al. v. USI Industrial Services, Inc. (NUMBER 13-20-00004-CV). If you sustained injuries in a car accident caused by a person acting on behalf of their employer, it is in your best interest to speak to a skilled Texas car accident attorney regarding your potential claims.

The Subject Collision

It is reported that the defendant employed two boilermakers and directed them to travel to and from Borger and Rio Grande Valley for the job. In mid-April of 2016, the defendant dismissed them from its employ due to a reduction in force. Two days later, they began their trip home. During the trip, the boilermaker who was driving lost control of his truck and collided with a car driven by the decedent.

Allegedly, both the decedent and the boilermaker who was driving died in the accident. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the decedent’s death and ultimately asserted non-employee mission liability and respondeat superior claims against the defendant. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing the boilermakers were not acting in the scope of their employment at the time of the crash. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Vicarious Liability for Trucking Accidents

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. The appellate court explained that in order for the plaintiff to prevail on her respondeat superior claim, she must first show that the boilermaker that drove the vehicle was an employee of the defendant at the time of the crash. As she failed to do so, the court did not address the issue of whether he was in the course and scope of his employment when the collision occurred.

Similarly, the appellate court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that non-employee mission liability, which imposes vicarious liability outside of the employment context, applied. To do so, the plaintiff needed to show that the mission was conducted subject to the defendant’s control or direction and for the defendant’s benefit. As the boilermaker driver no longer worked for the defendant at the time of the crash and was traveling for his own benefit and not for the defendant’s, the court found that there was no basis for imposing non-employee mission liability. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned Texas Attorney

Car crashes can cause significant injuries, and in many instances, more than one party is responsible for the harm suffered. If you were hurt in an auto accident, it is smart to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Earl Drott is a seasoned Texas attorney who can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can reach  Mr. Drott through the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.


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