By: Arthur J. Chapman and David A. Weinberger
October 30, 2013
Two recent California appellate decisions have addressed the evolving issue of employer liability for torts of employees who are involved in accidents during work commutes. In the first opinion, the doctrine of respondeat superior was broadened more than we have seen in the past. In a subsequent case, the court interpreted employer liability more narrowly. Nevertheless, the courts appear to agree on a rule that an employer should be liable for its employee’s torts during commutes if the employer receives an incidental benefit from its employee’s use of the vehicle, otherwise known as the “required vehicle exception”. This rule also has an exception, however, where the employee deviates from his commute for personal interests to the extent that the activity constitutes a substantial departure from the employer’s business.