Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia truck accident lawsuit, addressing the state’s vicarious liability law. The case arose after the plaintiff appealed a trial court’s ruling in favor of an employer who owned the truck that was involved in an accident that killed one of his daughters and injured the other. The driver of the truck worked for the defendant’s company, and on the day of the accident, he and a co-worker were making a stop before traveling to their next job site. When they were leaving the job site, another vehicle suddenly changed lanes and swerved in front of the truck. The truck driver quickly changed lanes to avoid a collision, but in doing so, his driver’s side tire flew off his vehicle and struck the plaintiff’s daughter’s car.
The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the truck driver’s employer based on Georgia’s vicarious liability laws. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the driver did not properly maintain his truck, and the driver’s actions were attributed to his employer.
Under Georgia law, employers may be subject to vicarious liability laws if their employee’s negligence results in a car accident and injuries to another person. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior employers may be liable in these cases if their employee’s negligent acts occurred while the employee was engaged in the “course and scope” of their employment. However, this theory does not apply if the employee is on a personal errand which does not provide any benefit to the employer. Issues often arise when determining whether an employee was within the “course and scope” of employment, especially in instances where the employee is taking a brief detour during work. In most situations, employers are not liable when the accident takes place on the way to or from work or if the employee was on a lunch break. However, exceptions exist when the employee is on a “special mission” for the benefit of the employer, or if they are in an employee-owned vehicle. In these cases, employers possess the burden to overcome the presumption of liability.