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Employer Found Liable for Employee’s Automobile Accident in Employee’s Personal Vehicle Which Had Been Used For Work

On September 17, 2013, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, issued its decision in Moradi v. Marsh USA, concluding an employer could be held liable for a car accident caused by an employee while she was between errands on her way home from work.

An employee of an insurance broker, Judy Bamberger, was required each workday to drive to and from the office in her personal vehicle. During the workday, Bamberger had to use her vehicle to visit prospective clients, make presentations provide educational seminars, follow leads, and transport company materials and co-employees to work-related destinations. On April 15, 2010, Bamberger, left work intending to stop for some frozen yogurt and take a yoga class on her way home. As she turned left into the parking lot for the yogurt shop, Bamberger collided with motorcyclist Majid Moradi. Moradi sued Bamberger’s employer, Marsh, for injuries.

The Court of Appeal found that Bamberger was acting within the scope of her employment, even when she was simply commuting to and from work, because her job duties required frequent use of an automobile, and because her employer required her to bring her own personal vehicle to the office and required her to make work-related trips using her vehicle during the day. The court reasoned that, because her job required frequent car travel beyond her regular commute, the employer derived enough of a benefit from Bamberger’s use of her vehicle to bring it within the scope of the “required vehicle” exception. Under this exception, an employee is deemed to be engaged in the course of employment even while driving to or from work if the employer gains at least an incidental benefit from the employee using his or her car during the course of the workday. The fact that Bamberger was stopping for yogurt at the time of the accident and was planning on driving to a yoga class before going home did not alter the court’s conclusion, because such activities were considered to be foreseeable and did not constitute a substantial departure from her regular commute.

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