Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Moradi v. Marsh USA (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 17, 2013)

This is a major expansion of employer liability.

Maybe it's right.  Maybe it's wrong.  But it's a major expansion.

You'd think that there's obviously no employer liability.  Plaintiff's driving a motorcycle and gets hit by someone driving home from work.  There's a longstanding "coming and going" rule that says that employers aren't liable for accidents like these because living elsewhere (i.e., someplace other than at work) is for the "benefit" of the employee, not the employer.  So you'd think this is an easy case.

You'd think that principle is even more applicable here than usual.  The employee works on South Fig in LA.  She lives in Woodland Hills.  A nicer place.  When she hits the plaintiff, she's not even going directly home.  She's pulling in to eat some frozen yogurt.  On her way to a yoga.  If that's not personal -- rather than for the benefit of the employer -- what is?

But the Court of Appeal holds that the employer could still be held liable.  Because sometimes the employee used her personal vehicle to do work stuff.  With the knowledge of her employer.  So the employer might be liable as well.

Think whether this principle applies to you.  Ever drive your own car to a client meeting?  Ever drive it to court?  Can your firm be liable for an accident that happens on your way to and from work?  The typical answer would be "No."  This case requires one to think again.

To reiterate:  Maybe that's a good rule, maybe it's a bad rule.  But this is definitely a broader view of employer liability than we've had before.  In a way that might well touch millions of people.

Lawyers included.