Is a contractor responsible for an injury caused when a worker, in his personal car, injures someone at the job site? The California Court of Appeal has held that the contractor is responsible under those circumstances under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. This doctrine, which literally means “let the master answer,” states that an employer is responsible for the acts of employees committed in the course of their employment. The theory is that an employer, like this contractor, controls the conduct of its worker and, consequently, should be responsible for injuries caused by his conduct.
If an employee acts are strictly personal in nature, the doctrine might not apply. But, acts that are necessary for the convenience or comfort of an employee at work do not take him outside of the scope of his employment. So, an employee who stops working to eat, drink, or smoke in the bathroom is still considered to be working. If the employee injures someone during these activities, the employer is going to be responsible.
Recently, the Court of Appeal in Vogt v. Herron Construction decided that an employee who moves his personal truck at work is still acting in the course and scope of his employment. In that case, there was a construction project underway in Riverside, California. Herron Construction was the framing contractor, and the contractor’s employee, while moving his personal car, ran over someone working for the concrete subcontractor. The Court explained that in moving his personal car, the contractor’s employee did not substantially deviate from his work and, as a result the trial court was wrong to throw out the case against the contractor.
Heimanson & Wolf represents individuals injured in construction accidents. For more information see Construction Accidents