Employment Law Commentary -- Volume 26, Issue 1 -- January 2014: Can Employers Be Liable for Employees’ Car Accidents During Employee Commutes? Maybe.

It is rare these days for a California appellate court to weigh in on whether an employer is vicariously liable for accidents involving an employee that occur during the employee’s commute to and from work. The law was thought to be fairly settled. Then, in the span of a few weeks last fall, California appellate courts examined this issue not once but twice, issuing decisions that at first blush seemed to come to quite contrary conclusions.

In mid-September 2013, the Second Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal allowed a case to proceed to trial against a company whose employee injured a motorcyclist during her commute home. Moradi v. Marsh USA Inc., 219 Cal. App. 4th 886 (2013). Less than six weeks later, the Fifth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of an employer whose employee caused a serious highway accident while driving to work in a company truck. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. v. Department of Transportation, 220 Cal. App. 4th 87 (2013).

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