Texas Court Discusses Vicarious Liability in Cases Arising Out of Collisions

Some jobs require people to travel on a regular basis, and it is not uncommon for a person who is driving to a location for work purposes to cause a collision. People hurt by parties traveling for work purposes will often allege that the parties’ employers should be held vicariously liable for the harm they cause. In Texas, employers will only be deemed responsible for harm caused by their employees in limited circumstances, though, as discussed in an opinion recently issued by a Texas court in Rios Pina v. Sun Loans, Inc. (No. 04-20-00336-CV). If you sustained injuries in a collision caused by a negligent driver, you should confer with a knowledgeable Texas car accident attorney to evaluate what compensation you may be owed.

The Subject Accident

Reportedly, the plaintiff suffered injuries in an accident in which a car driven by the defendant’s employee collided with her vehicle. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver and the defendant, asserting numerous claims, including vicarious liability. The plaintiff settled her claims against the driver, and the defendant moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims. With regard to the vicarious liability claim, the defendant argued it the driver was not operating within the scope and course of her employment at the time of the accident, and as such, the plaintiff’s claim failed. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Establishing Vicarious Liability Under Texas Law

Under Texas law, an employer may be found vicariously liable for the negligent acts of its employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Pursuant to the doctrine, liability requires proof of tortious behavior by a tortfeasor, an agency relationship between the employer and the tortfeasor, and the commission of a tortious act while the tortfeasor was in the scope and course of the employer’s authority.

In the subject case, the parties did not dispute that the driver engaged in tortious behavior or that an agency relationship existed between the driver and the employer. Rather, the sole issue on appeal was whether the driver was acting within the scope and course of her employment at the time of the collision. The court explained that whether an employee is acting in the scope and course of employment is a question of fact.

A plaintiff arguing in favor of the finding of vicarious liability must prove the conduct was within the general authority granted to the employee, furthered the employer’s business, and aimed to accomplish the goals for which the employer hired the employee. Here, the court found that a genuine issue of fact existed as to whether the crash happened while the employee was in the course and scope of her employment. Thus, the court vacated the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Texas Attorney

While car crashes are typically caused by careless driving, parties other than the negligent motorist may be held accountable for any harm that ensues. If you were hurt in an accident, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your right to pursue claims against the responsible parties. Earl T. Drott is a trusted Texas car accident attorney who possesses the skills and resources needed to help injured parties seek justice for their losses, and if you engage his services, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Drott through the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.

 

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