Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an important issue that frequently arises in Washington, D.C. car accident cases filed against an allegedly negligent driver’s employer. The case required the court to determine if the defendant employer could be held liable for the allegedly negligent acts of an employee. Finding that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that the employee was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, the court determined that the defendant employer could not be held liable.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was injured when her vehicle was struck by another motorist who was talking on the phone at the time of the accident. Evidently, the other driver was coming home from her boyfriend’s house and was talking on the phone with one of the employees whom she supervises at work.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employer of the other driver, claiming that the driver’s employer was vicariously liable for her negligence. The plaintiff argued that liability was appropriate because the alleged at-fault driver was on a work-related call at the time of the accident.
The other driver, as well as the woman whom she was talking to on the phone, testified that they were friends outside of work and that they were talking about personal issues at the time of the accident. The driver acknowledged, however, that she was provided a company phone and would occasionally need to make work-related calls when she was not at work. The driver’s cell phone records revealed that she had never spoken to the other employee outside of work.
The defendant employer claimed that it could not be held liable because there was no evidence that the driver was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. The plaintiff did not present any evidence suggesting the two women were not friends but questioned the credibility of the women given the fact that they had never spoken on the phone before the day of the accident.
The Court’s Decision
The court held that the plaintiff failed to prove that the employee-driver was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that the only evidence presented to the court regarding the relationship between the driver and the other employee suggested that they did have a friendship outside of work. The court explained that the mere fact that the credibility of the witnesses was at issue did not give rise to a disputed fact. The court noted that a plaintiff must present some evidence to create a dispute, and here the plaintiff failed to do so.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Car Accident?
If you have recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the Washington, D.C. personal injury and wrongful death law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims and their family members in all types of injury claims, including car accidents. To earn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
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Court Discusses Plaintiff’s Future-Earnings Claim in Recent Car Accident Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 25, 2018
Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Premises Liability Case against Ski Resort, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 2, 2018