California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

When Are Employers Liable for Their Workers' Traffic Accidents -- Jeewarat v. Warner Bros.

It is well settled that employers may be liable for the actions of their employees in the "course and scope" of their employment.  It is also well settled that employers are not liable for an employee during his commuting time -- otherwise known as the "coming and going rule." 

These two principles become blurred, however, when an employee is traveling to or from an off-site conference, job assignment, or some other so-called "special errand."  For example, in Jeerwat v. Warner Bros., the employee was driving back from a three-day business conference to his home, and was even following his normal commute path, when he struck several pedestrians.  The pedestrians sued the employer and the Court held that the lawsuit could proceed. 

We hold that an employee's attendance at an out-of-town business conference may be considered a special errand under the special errand doctrine. In addition, when an employee intends to drive home from the errand, the errand is not concluded simply because the employee drives his regular commute route, but rather, the errand is concluded when the employee returns home or deviates from the errand for personal reasons.

In other words, when Companies schedule retreats, conferences, and office parties they need to be aware that they may be liable for any accidents caused by their employees in getting to and from the meeting.    

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