Every day, the Sunshine State’s roads and highways are full of drivers headed to and from work. When one of those drivers causes an accident, not only may he or she be liable for any injuries that result, but – in some cases – the driver’s employer may also be responsible. In Jones v. Latex, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals considers a suit against both a negligent motorist and his employer.
Wenford Killings died in a car accident in Callahan, Florida when a pick-up truck driven by Donald Cone rear-ended the car that Killings was driving. Cone was working for Latex Construction Company at the time, laying gas pipeline on a moving worksite, which was making its way from Georgia through Florida. Elva Jones sued both Cone and Latex on behalf of Killings’ estate, alleging that Cone’s negligence caused the accident and that Latex was liable under the legal doctrine respondeat superior, which provides that an employer is generally responsible for the actions of its workers performed in the course of employment.
While both Cone and Latex admitted that he was negligent and caused the accident, Latex argued that it could not be held liable because Cone was not the company’s agent at the time the accident occurred. The only evidence presented at trial regarding this issue was the testimony of the police officer who responded to the scene of the accident. The officer testified that Cone told the officer that he was on his way to work when his car plowed into Killings’ vehicle.
At the close of the trial, the district court granted Latex’s motion for directed verdict, ruling that Jones failed to provide sufficient evidence on which a jury could find Latex liable.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision. “The general rule is that an employee who is going to or coming from work is not acting within the scope of his employment,” the court noted, citing Section 440.092(2), Florida Statutes.
The court noted, however, that the “coming and going” rule may not apply in the instant case because, as part of his contract, Latex leased Cone’s truck from him; since Cone was using his own vehicle to travel with the moving jobsite, the company essentially paid him for use of the car. However, the court also noted that the lease agreement explicitly stated that it only applies during “working time on the job” and begins at the company warehouse and ends at the work site. Thus, “if Cone had been to the warehouse and was on his way to the jobsite, the company may well have considered this time to be ‘working on the job’ for which he would be reimbursed” and therefore Latex could be held liable.
Jones failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that Cones was indeed on the way to work when the accident occurred, according to the court. Despite the police officer’s testimony, it was unclear whether Cone was on his way to the warehouse – in which case Latex would not be liable – or traveling from the warehouse to the work site. A jury decision on this issue would be nothing more than “speculation,” the court concluded.
Rear end accidents are among the most common types of automobile collisions in the United States. The South Florida rear end accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent clients. Anidjar & Levine’s lawyers commonly represent individuals who were injured in rear end collisions, and persevere to get the best possible results for clients.
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