Premier Boutique Business Litigation Law Firm Serving All of Florida

Employers: Are you vicariously liable for your employee’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle?

In Florida, an employer is vicariously liable for an employee’s tortious conduct where the conduct occurs within the scope of the employment. An employee’s conduct is within the scope of employment if it occurs substantially within authorized time and space limits, and it is activated at least in part by a purpose to serve the master.

The law in Florida is well established that an employee driving to and from work is not within the scope of employment as to impose liability on the employer. However, is the answer the same if the negligent operation of the motor vehicle occurs while the employee is on an out-of-state business trip and the collision occurs while the employee is driving an employer-provided rental car to and from the employer’s worksite.

The second district court of appeal squarely just dealt with this issue. In Peterson v. Cisco Systems, Inc., the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that it makes no difference that the employee was working out of state at the time of the collision. The court rejected the argument that an employer’s vicarious liability to a third party depends on whether the employee drives to the work site from a hotel instead of his usual abode. The plaintiff in Peterson attempted to apply Florida worker’s compensation law, which recognizes an exception to the “going and coming to work rule” when an employee is on a business trip, imposing vicarious liability on the employer. However, the court recognized the distinction between worker’s compensation cases and negligence cases resulting in injuries to third parties. Therefore, it refused to apply or extend the exception in worker’s compensation cases to third-party negligence cases to impose vicarious liability on the employer.

Rosenthal Law Group has successfully defended vicarious liability cases on behalf of employers for their employee’s alleged negligent acts. Rosenthal Law Group is available to assist employers with all their litigation needs.