Monday, March 08, 2010

Lobo v. Tamco (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 24, 2010)

See if this fact pattern applies to you as well.

I'll share how it looks like it works for me. I work at a university. I run or bike to work on occasion, but often drive. When I do, I drive my own car.

My employer occasionally asks me to go to various off-campus locations. Alumni events, bar activities, swearing-in ceremonies, presentations, etc. When I do, it reimburses me for mileage. Over the past ten years, I've driven my own car to maybe thirty of these things. My employer doesn't provide a car for me in part because it's cheap and in part because I don't do these things often enough to "justify" a company car. (Unlike, I might add, the Dean and the President of the University.) Normally, though, I just drive my car to and from my home.

Let's say I crash my car going home one evening. Or run into someone. Can I get worker's comp? Can they sue the university?

According to this opinion, the answer -- stunningly -- may well be "Yes".

Let's compare my (and your) situation to the facts of that case. There, the employer didn't provide the employee with a company car either. There, as part of his work, the employee occasionally had to go to off-site locations, and occasionally used his own car. During the past sixteen years, the employee had done so ten times or less. He was driving home one day -- again, to his home, not to a job site -- and smashed into someone, killing him. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant when the decedent's estate sued the employer, holding that the usual "coming and going rule" (i.e., there's no respondeat superior liability) applies when an employee's driving his own car to and from work. But the Court of Appeal reverses.

I'm dubious. Very dubious. But it's good to know. I'll definitely remember that the next time I get into an accident on the way home from work.