Articles Posted in Respondeat Superior

bus injury

A parent’s worst nightmare, “Mom we were in a car accident”. Thirty-four parents received that call Tuesday when the bus carrying T.H. Harris Middle School’s track team plunged into the canal. According to WGNO, three students were taken to a local hospital complaining of minor injuries after a Jefferson Parish School bus driver careened into a canal. After the accident, students were forced to exit the bus through windows and the back door. While no reports have been issued stating the school bus driver was impaired, the school bus driver was cited for careless operation by local authorities.

Unfortunate events like this school bus accident occur all too often. Parents and children are left with the visible and invisible injuries. Some parents are up in arms about the numerous open canals along bus routes, but one of the overarching concerns is whether school bus drivers are receiving effective and adequate driving training.

Accidents are never easy, but when employees are in the course and scope of their employment, their employers are liable for damages. According to Louisiana Civil Code Article 2320, masters and employers are answerable for the damage occasioned by their servants and overseers, in the exercise of the functions in which they are employed. See full text of Article 2320 here. Our previous blog entry on the theory of Respondeat Superior is a great guide explaining the concept.

Louisiana Civil Code article 2320 is the foundation for the theory of respondeat superior, which in Latin means ‘Let the Master Answer.’ It states, “Masters and employers are answerable for the damage occasioned by their servants and overseers, in the exercise of the functions in which they are employed.” Therefore, employers are only responsible for their employees’ actions if it occurs in the course and scope of their employment. Louisiana case law has created different factors and tests to apply this theory; however, there is no bright line rule in use.

Generally, an employee’s conduct is within the course and scope of his employment if the conduct is the kind that he is employed to perform (Orgeron v. McDonald). An employer will be responsible for the negligent acts of its employee when the conduct is so closely connected in time, place, and causation to the employment duties of the employee that it constitutes a risk of harm attributable to the employer’s business, as compared with conduct instituted by purely personal considerations entirely extraneous to the employer’s interest. In determining whether the employee’s conduct is employment related, the court assesses several factors, including the payment of wages by the employer; the employer’s power of control; the employee’s duty to perform the act in question; the time, place, and purpose of the act in relation to the employer’s service; the relationship between the employee’s act and the employer’s business; the benefits received by the employer from the act; the employer’s motivation for performing the act; and the employer’s reasonable expectation that the employee would perform the act (Woolard v. Atkinson).

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in Portillo v. Progressive Paloverde Insurance Company recently had to decide whether or not respondeat superior would be applicable in the case. The victims of the car crash filed a lawsuit against the defendants for personal injuries sustained in a three-vehicle crash that occurred on July 8, 2011. The petition alleges that Mr. Robert Masters rear ended the victims while driving a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta. The petition further alleges that Mr. Masters was in the course and scope of his employment with Walker Volkswagen when the accident occurred, thereby imputing to Walker Volkswagen the fault and negligence of Mr. Masters under the theory of respondeat superior. Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted on April 11, 2013.