COA orders new trial on vicarious liability issue | The Indiana Lawyer
Sony DADC US Inc. and Bradley J. Brown v. Mark Thompson, 84A01-1507-CT-892
Talk about a brain-twister… Although the company committed to an industry certification which is often touted for a variety of benefits, it didn’t come without risks in liability.
In this instance, the company altered its policies to meet standards for an industry certification – the result of which encouraged employees to recycle personal items on company premises. This created an environment where personal activity could be considered commingled with company employment via the the company policy to meet the industry certification. To further complicate matters, the company may have rescinded its policy commitment to recycling at some point since its inception.
For the purposes of vicarious liability, when the accident arose was the exiting employee, while technically just “off the clock”, still within the scope of his employment because he was still on company property acting pursuant to a company sponsored effort?
Or, was he engaged in a personal effort because the once-company-sponsored policy was no longer in effect?
Does the employee’s level of knowledge or awareness of these policies, or the alleged changes, become determinative?
In essence, are any of the employee’s actions associated with this accident, in whole or in part, within the scope of his employment?
All good questions; and, as the court noted, many are likely genuine issues of material fact i.e. they will be determined, not by the parties, but by a judge or jury. Although such company policies are generally well-intended, these types of cases remind us to evermore clearly define an employee’s scope of work versus other non-work related benefits, whether associated with an industry certification or otherwise.
Note: The views expressed are solely the opinion of the author.
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