Appellate Court Rejects $885,000 Verdict Against Educational Institution in Auto-Pedestrian Accident Case

The California Court of Appeals recently published an opinion reversing a jury’s verdict in favor of a 14-year-old boy who was injured in a 2012 auto-pedestrian accident involving an instructor employed by the defendant who was driving home from work when the accident occurred. The lawsuit, which was originally filed against both the driver and his employer, alleged that the employer was liable for the injuries caused by the driver because he was acting within the course of his employment when the crash occurred. Although the verdict against the employer was reversed, the pretrial settlement that the plaintiff reached with the driver of the vehicle will remain in effect to help compensate him for the injuries that were suffered in the crash.

Teen Plaintiff Is Struck by Culinary Instructor as He Returns From Work

The plaintiff in the case of Jorge v. Culinary Institute of America was a boy who was 14 years old when he was struck by a vehicle while walking with his girlfriend and suffered serious injuries. The driver of the car that hit the boy was employed as an instructor at a culinary institute that was operated by the defendant, and he was returning to his home after his workday when he injured the plaintiff.

The plaintiff filed an auto-pedestrian accident claim against both the driver and his employer, arguing that the driver was returning from work “in service of the employer” when the accident occurred. After the jury found that the driver was negligent in causing the accident, his auto insurance company negotiated a $30,000 settlement with the plaintiff before the jury determined the total amount of damages to which the teen was entitled. After the partial settlement was reached, the Culinary Institute was the only remaining defendant in the case and was unable to have the claim against them dismissed.

The Jury Awards over $850,000 to the Plaintiff from the Culinary Institute, But the Verdict Failed to Withstand Legal Scrutiny

After the trial was complete, the jury returned a verdict of over $850,000 against the Culinary Institute, finding that the driver was acting in the course of his employment when his negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant maintained that the award was not legally appropriate and sought review by an appellate court.

The court ultimately released a decision reversing the verdict. The court found that a driver is not acting within the course of his employment when he is going to or coming from work, unless additional facts are proven. Since the driver was returning directly from work and was not pursuing any actions that were beneficial to his employer at the time of the crash, the employer could not be held accountable for his negligence as a matter of law.

South Florida Employers May Be Liable For Employees’ Negligence During a Commute

Florida law is similar to that applied in the above case, and employers are often absolved of responsibility for any negligence committed by their employees during a commute to and from work. If an employee is commuting to or from work while also completing some work-related task, such as mailing a product, having a telephone conversation, or attending a meeting on the way home, the employer may still be accountable for injuries suffered in an accident. Anyone injured in an accident involving a company vehicle or driver who could be doing a work-related task should seek the advice of a knowledgeable Miami accident attorney to determine if multiple claims may be available.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Auto Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a South Florida car accident, including an auto-pedestrian collision, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your loss. The qualified South Florida accident and injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are experienced in helping victims pursue the compensation that they deserve. You may be entitled to a significant award from multiple parties, and our skilled lawyers can realistically assess your possible claims. Contact us at 877-448-8585 or use our web-based form to get started on your claim today.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Court Refuses to Impose Sanctions Against Pharmacy for Destruction of Evidence in Prescription Error Lawsuit, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 4, 2016.

Court Upholds Verdict in Icy Road Car Accident Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 23, 2016.

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