In a recent case, a state appellate court considered whether a company could be held liable after an employee caused an accident in a company car while driving drunk. According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the employee received permission to use a company car on a weekend to move a mattress into a new home, even though this was a violation of company policy. The employee drank several alcoholic drinks on the day he borrowed the car and then collided with the plaintiff’s car.
The plaintiff brought a lawsuit against the employee and also brought a claim against the company for negligent entrustment. A trial court first heard the case and granted summary judgment to the company on the negligent entrustment claim. It concluded the employer did not know the employee had a pattern of reckless driving, since the employer only knew the employee had one prior DUI conviction and was not aware he had additional DUI convictions.
The plaintiff appealed the decision. He argued summary judgment was improper because the court should have considered whether the company had a duty to investigate the employee’s driving background more thoroughly. The appeals court agreed. It noted that when the company hired the employee, he listed a 1990 conviction for possession of cocaine, but he omitted multiple prior DUI convictions. However, the employee said he told the company about his history of drugs and alcohol, and he also told the company his license was reinstated in 2010 after it was suspended for a DUI conviction. The company did a background investigation of the employee before hiring him. The investigation showed a clean driving history, but it only showed infractions for the previous three years, and his federal criminal history did not show any convictions.