Every day, the Sunshine State's roads and highways are full of drivers headed to and from work. When one of those drivers causes an accident, not only may he or she be liable for any injuries that result, but - in some cases - the driver's employer may also be responsible. In Jones v. Latex, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals considers a suit against both a negligent motorist and his employer.
Wenford Killings died in a car accident in Callahan, Florida when a pick-up truck driven by Donald Cone rear-ended the car that Killings was driving. Cone was working for Latex Construction Company at the time, laying gas pipeline on a moving worksite, which was making its way from Georgia through Florida. Elva Jones sued both Cone and Latex on behalf of Killings' estate, alleging that Cone's negligence caused the accident and that Latex was liable under the legal doctrine respondeat superior, which provides that an employer is generally responsible for the actions of its workers performed in the course of employment.
While both Cone and Latex admitted that he was negligent and caused the accident, Latex argued that it could not be held liable because Cone was not the company's agent at the time the accident occurred. The only evidence presented at trial regarding this issue was the testimony of the police officer who responded to the scene of the accident. The officer testified that Cone told the officer that he was on his way to work when his car plowed into Killings' vehicle.
At the close of the trial, the district court granted Latex's motion for directed verdict, ruling that Jones failed to provide sufficient evidence on which a jury could find Latex liable.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. "The general rule is that an employee who is going to or coming from work is not acting within the scope of his employment," the court noted, citing Section 440.092(2), Florida Statutes.