Monday, January 7, 2013

Respondeat Superior

No Respondeat Superior Liability for Employee
Accident Absent Proof Employee Was Commuting to Work

      In a December 7, 2012 decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment granted in favor of the employer against whom respondeat superior liability for an auto accident was asserted.  Collins v. Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc., __ S.w.3d __, 2012 WL 6061749 (Ky. App. Dec. 7, 2012).
      Marilyn Neumann, an attorney, was employed by the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc. (“Appalred”).  On February 11, 2008, she was involved in an automobile accident in which both she and the plaintiff Collins “suffered significant and permanent injuries.”  Collins brought suit against numerous parties including Appalred, that claim being based upon respondeat superior and the assertion that at the time of the accident Neumann was engaged in work on behalf of Appalred.
       Consequent to her injuries, Neumann was unable to provide a clear answer as to the chain of events the morning of the accident, and was specifically unable to address whether she had already visited one courthouse on company business.  She had, it appears undisputed, dropped her son at school, been to two banks on her father’s behalf and delivered documents to her father’s house.  Neumann had also called her office, explaining that she was running errands and would be later arriving.
      After reciting the rule set forth in the Restatement (Third) of Agency § 7.07 as to an employer’s liability for employee conduct and the Steelvest standard for the grant of summary judgment, the decision of the trial court was upheld:
Neumann unequivocally testified that she was conducting personal errands on the morning of the accident, none of which benefitted Appalred in any regard. Kentucky law is clear that to hold Appalred vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior, Neumann must have been engaged in activity that furthered Appalred's business or interests, without deviation by Neumann to pursue her own personal benefit.  Under the applicable legal framework and the facts herein, the doctrine of respondeat superior simply has no application herein. We agree with the trial court that it would have been impossible for Collins to offer evidence at trial in support of his claim regarding the vicarious liability of Appalred. As such summary judgment was proper.
2012 WL 6061749, *5 (citation omitted).

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