Court Discusses Employer Liability in Employee Car Accident Case

Earlier this month, a New York appellate court issued a written opinion in an interesting case discussing when an employer may be held liable for the negligent actions of an employee. In the case, Fountain v. Karim, the court determined that the lower court failed to make a necessary factual determination and sent the case back to the lower court to conduct further analysis. The question the lower court must answer is whether the employer had given the employee express permission to use the car that was involved in the accident.

SUVThe Facts

Karim was a government employee temporarily assigned to an office several hours away from his home. Karim would stay in a government-provided hotel room during the week and would travel home for the weekend. During the week, Karim was allowed to use a government vehicle for his work-related travels, a Ford Explorer. However, on the weekends, Karim would normally drive his own car back home, leaving the work vehicle at the office. If Karim wanted to use the Explorer for his personal use, he would submit a request to his supervisor. Several of these requests were retroactively approved, meaning Karim did not submit a prior written request but obtained permission after he had returned the car.

On August 31, 2010, Karim was preparing to leave for a work trip to another office 100 miles away. Before he left, Karim submitted a request to take the vehicle, but he did not get a response. Karim was planning on taking the Ford Explorer to his hotel, where he would stay the night, and then take the vehicle to the remote office 100 miles away.

On his way to the hotel, Karim caused an accident, seriously injuring Fountain. Karim admitted he was responsible for the accident. Fountain sued both Karim and the U.S. Government as Karim’s employer. The court hearing the case dismissed the claims against the government, holding that Karim did not have permission to be using the car at the time of the accident. Fountain appealed.

On appeal, the court noted that it was not sufficient to determine merely that Karim did not have explicit permission. If it were, employers would be able to avoid liability by intentionally refusing to complete paperwork until a vehicle is safely returned. Instead, the court held, there needed to be a factual determination as to whether Karim had implied permission to use the car.

The court pointed out that there were facts suggesting that Karim had obtained retroactive approval in the past, and it could be argued that he was on his way to the remote office 100 miles away and that he had just stopped at his hotel along the way. The court also noted that there was evidence suggesting Karim did not have approval. Ultimately, the court determined that the lower court would be in the best position, having heard and seen the evidence first-hand, to make the determination, and it remanded the case for the factual determination to be made.

Have You Been Involved in a Serious Car or Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a serious Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances of your accident, it may be that there are several parties who are potentially liable for your injuries. Call the Maryland and Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC to set up a free consultation to discuss your case. With thousands of cases resolved in their clients’ favor, you can be sure your case is in good hands. Call today at 410-654-3600.

More Blog Posts:

Respondeat Superior: Holding an Employer Liable for the Negligent Actions of an Employee, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published October 4, 2016.

Court Affirms Jury’s Defense Verdict in Low-Speed Rear-End Collision, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 20, 2016.

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