California Employer May be Liable for Employee’s Car Accident while Returning from Out-of-Town Conference


A California appellate court held that an employee’s attendance at a business conference, including the commute to and from the conference, constitutes a special errand under the special errand doctrine, which renders an employer vicariously liable for accidents caused by an employee engaged in a special errand for the employer.

Under the “Going and Coming Rule,” an employee is not considered acting within the scope of employment while going to or coming from the workplace as the employee is not ordinarily rendering services to the employer while traveling. An exception to this rule occurs when an employee is engaged in a “special errand” or a “special mission” for the employer. In such instances, the employee is considered to be in the scope of employment for the entire trip and the employer is legally responsible for the employee’s actions while traveling to accomplish the special errand. Thus, an employee’s attendance at an out-of-town business conference authorized and paid for by the employer may be a special errand for the benefit of the employer under the special errand doctrine, which could include commercial travel.

What employers need to do:

  • Ensure that employees who regularly drive on Company business have a valid driver’s license, a clean driving record, and appropriate insurance
  • Contact Vantaggio HR regarding conducting DMV record checks and/or updating Business Travel policies

To review this case, please visit http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B212323.PDF.

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