Going and Coming Issue Relating to Business Owners Liability
Attorney Rivers J. Morrell III
A recent case, Fields vs. State of California, discussed the "going and coming" rule as it relates to an employer's responsibility/liability for the negligent driving of its employee. As one may know, when an employee is commuting to and from work, and gets in an accident, the employer is not responsible for that employee's negligence. However, if that employee is running an errand for his/her employer, then the employer can be held liable, or if there is an incidental benefit involved for the employer.
In many cases, a driver does not have enough insurance to cover the damages that were caused by a driver's negligence. Frequently, if not often, the attorney is looking for others who may be legally responsible for the driver's negligence. The attorney may look to the owner of the vehicle, or may see if the driver was in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred.
In this case, the driver was a prison employee. She was injured on the job, and was receiving workers compensation benefits. She was going to her workers comp doctor for treatment. She was returning to work from one of her appointments when she injured someone while she was driving. That injured person sought to hold her employer, the State of California, responsible.
The court discussed the various exceptions to the rule that precludes holding the employer responsible. First, if the "commuting" involves an "incidental benefit" to the employer, then the employer can be held responsible, as an exception to the "going and coming" rule. Here, there was no "incidental benefit" to the prison, her employer. Second, if the employee is running a "special errand" for the employer, then the employer can be held responsible. Here, the prison employee was not running a special errand for the prison, and therefore the State of California was not responsible.
As is often the case, one of the primary responsibilities of an attorney is to look for and find others who may be legally responsible for the injuries that his or her client has received. At first glance, it is not always obvious who may be responsible.
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