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Employer not Liable for Employee's Negligence When on Vacation (PA)

February 28, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <a href="http://blog.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Ludwig-v.-McDonald-et-al..pdf">Ludwig v. McDonald et al.</a>, the plaintiff  filed suit claiming that she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle when she was exiting into the street from her parked car in Forest City, Pennsylvania.  Plaintiff alleged that after she exited her vehicle, the defendant, who was traveling in the southbound lane, entered the northbound lane to avoid another vehicle and struck her as she was standing by her vehicle.  Plaintiff alleged that the defendant was operating his vehicle in the scope and course of his employment with LTC Associates, a company in the business of operating a nursing home in Forest City.  In the complaint, plaintiff alleged claims of negligence against the defendant and vicarious liability against his employer.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Following discovery, LTC Associates filed for summary judgment, alleging that the defendant personally owned the vehicle involved in the accident, and that the defendant was “on vacation” at the time the incident occurred, and therefore LTC was not vicariously liable.  In support of its motion, LTC cited to the defendant’s time off request form that he submitted to request off on the date of the incident.  LTC also cited to testimony by the defendant stating that he was on vacation on the date of the  accident; however, he did go to work earlier in the afternoon to drop some items off.  Further, the defendant’s written time card confirmed that he did take time off on the date of the accident, as he was fixing his porch.  Based on those facts, the trial  court found that the defendant was not working in the scope of his employment on that date, and granted summary judgment in favor of LTC.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In affirming the trial court’s order, the Superior Court stated that there was no dispute as to employee-employer relationship between the defendant  and LTC.  However, the Court found no genuine issue of material fact establishing whether the defendant was working on the date of the accident.  The Court found that defendant was using his vacation time and was not working, despite the fact that he did stop by his place of employment on that date to drop off something and pick up his tools.  The fact that he was driving home from his place of employment when the accident occurred did not place his actions within the scope of his employment, as he freely chose to travel to his place of employment in his personal vehicle to pick something up.  He was not exercising the business of LTC at the time, and there was no evidence to show that LTC had any actual or potential control over the defendant’s actions.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Therefore, the trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of LTC was affirmed by the Superior Court.</p>
Thanks to Alexandra Perry for her contribution to this post.

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