Court Discusses Vicarious Liability in Tennessee Car Accident Cases

Many people’s jobs require them to drive regularly, and therefore many employers provide people with company cars. As such, in many instances in which a person driving a company car causes an accident that injures another party, the injured party may not only pursue claims against the driver but also against the company that employed the driver on a theory of vicarious liability. Recently, a Tennessee appellate court discussed what constitutes sufficient evidence to impose vicarious liability on an employer in a case in which a person was killed in a collision with a driver using a company car. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an accident involving a car owned by the driver’s employer, it is advisable to speak to a proficient Tennessee car accident attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue against the parties responsible for your harm.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s wife was involved in a car accident with the defendant driver, who was both the son and employee of the defendant vehicle owner. The plaintiff’s wife ultimately died due to the injuries caused by the accident, and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendants, alleging a vicarious liability claim against the defendant vehicle owner. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the defendant driver was acting in the scope and course of his employment during the accident, and therefore the defendant vehicle owner should be held accountable for the harm caused by the defendant driver.

It is reported that the defendant vehicle owner filed a motion for summary judgment, setting forth evidence that the defendant driver was acting outside of his employment at the time of the accident and asking the court to dismiss the claims against the defendant vehicle owner. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Vicarious Liability Under Tennessee Law

Under Tennessee law, a person seeking to impose vicarious liability for harm caused by a person operating a vehicle must establish that the person operating the vehicle was acting on behalf of his or her employer and in the scope of his or her employment at the time of the accident. The Tennessee Code provides, however, that when an employee is driving a vehicle owned by an employer, it is prima facie evidence that the employee is acting within the scope of his or her employment. In other words, it is evidence that is sufficient to support the position asserted, unless it is contradicted or explained.

Thus, in the subject case, the defendant vehicle owner had the burden of proof of overcoming the presumption that the defendant driver was within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The defendant, however, merely relied on his own testimony and the testimony of his son to refute the presumption. As such, the court found that the defendant vehicle owner failed to produce evidence sufficient to warrant a dismissal of the plaintiff’s vicarious liability claims and reversed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Capable Tennessee Attorney

If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a car accident caused by a person who was working for a company at the time of the accident, you should meet with an attorney to discuss what you can do to protect your interests. Eric Beasley is a capable Tennessee car accident attorney with ample experience helping injured parties seek redress for their harm, and he will work tirelessly on your behalf. Mr. Beasley can be reached at 615-859-2223 or through the form online to set up a conference.