Indiana Supreme Court Issues Important Opinion Involving Employer Liability for an Employee’s Negligent Acts

Earlier this month, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a written opinion in an Indiana car accident case involving a plaintiff’s claim that the employer of a delivery driver was responsible for injuries caused by the delivery driver. The plaintiff made several claims, including one under the doctrine of respondeat superior as well as another claim alleging negligent hiring. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the employer admitted that the employee was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident, the employer only can be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior.

The Facts of the Case

In August 2012, a delivery driver for a pizza restaurant was making a delivery when she rear-ended the plaintiff, who was riding a motorized scooter. The plaintiff was thrown from the scooter onto the road, where he was struck by another motorist. The plaintiff was killed in the accident.

The plaintiff’s estate filed a wrongful death case against all three parties:  the delivery driver, the pizza restaurant, and the driver who struck the plaintiff once she fell from the scooter. This opinion only involves the plaintiff’s claims against the pizza restaurant.

The plaintiff alleged that the pizza restaurant was liable under two distinct theories. The first, respondeat superior, allows for a plaintiff to hold an employer responsible for the negligent acts of an employee when the employee is acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. The second theory the plaintiff cited was a negligent hiring/supervision claim.

The pizza restaurant admitted that the delivery driver was acting within the scope of her employment at the time of the accident. Based on that admission, the restaurant asked the court to dismiss the negligent hiring claim, arguing that negligent hiring claims are based on actions that are not within the scope of employment.

The court used this case as an opportunity to clarify a decades-long question about the applicability of both theories to a situation in which an employer admits that an employee’s actions were within the scope of employment. Quite simply, the court drew a bright-line rule, stating that when an employer makes such an admission, only claims under respondeat superior are appropriate. When an employer claims that an employee’s allegedly negligent actions were not within the scope of employment, a negligent supervision claim is appropriate.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have decades of experience helping victims pursue the compensation they need and deserve from the parties responsible for their injuries. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you recover for your injuries.

Related Posts:

Court Resolves Statute of Limitations Argument in Favor of Defendant in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, October 4, 2017

Recreational Use Statute Prevents Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Following Rope-Swing Accident, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, October 25, 2017

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