Under the doctrine of respondeat superior employers can be held liable for the wrongful acts of their employees. For an employer to be liable in a Washington, D.C. injury case, an employee must have committed the wrongful act within the scope of their employment. The doctrine is meant to hold employers responsible and to aid victims in recovering compensation, as employers are often better situated to pay financial compensation.
Typically, to be within the scope of employment, the wrongful acts must be have been done at least in part to further the employer’s business, rather than solely for the employee’s own purposes. Generally, whether an employee was acting within the scope of their employment is a question for the jury to decide. A court may resolve the issue only where a reasonable juror could not find that the employee’s acts were within the scope of their employment.
In a recent case before one state’s appeals court, the court considered whether Lyft could be held liable for a driver’s accident while the driver was driving a car he rented through Lyft. The driver was on his way home in a car he had rented through Lyft’s “Express Drive program,” which allows drivers to rent vehicles pre-approved for use on the Lyft platform. The rental car could be used for driving for Lyft but could also be used for unlimited personal use. The driver had not worked for Lyft on the day of the accident, and while on his way home, the driver hit the plaintiffs’ vehicles, causing significant injuries.