Is the Employer Liable for Employee Car Accidents In Arizona ?
In Arizona, an employer may be held vicariously liable on the theory of respondeat superior for negligent driving of a vehicle by its employee if the facts establish an employer-employee relationship and the negligence of the employee occurred during the scope of her employment. State v. Superior Court (Schraft), 111 Ariz. 130, 132, 524 P.2d 951, 953 (1974) (citing Hansen v. Oakley, 76 Ariz. 307, 312, 263 P.2d 807, 810 (1953)).
An employee's conduct is within the scope of employment if:
(1) the conduct is the kind the employee is employed to perform;
(2) the conduct is substantially within the authorized time and space limits;
(3) the conduct is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the employer. Anderson v. Gobea, 18 Ariz. App. 277, 280, 501 P.2d 453, 456 (1972).
In tort actions arising out of vehicular accidents, our supreme court has explained that a "basic test" to determine applicability of respondeat superior is whether the employee is "subject to the employer's control or right to control" at the time of the negligent driving. Schraft, 111 Ariz. at 132, 524 P.2d at 953 (quoting Throop v. F. E. Young & Co., 94 Ariz. 146, 382 P.2d 560 (1963), and Lee Moor Contracting Co. v. Blanton, 49 Ariz. 130, 65 P.2d 35 (1937), declined to follow on other grounds by Tarron v. Bowen Machine & Fabricating, Inc., 225 Ariz. 147, 235 P.3d 1030 (2010)).
Similarly, the Court has recognized that, in motor vehicle accident cases, "scope of employment" is "tied to the employer's right to control the employee's activity" at the time of the tortious conduct. Robarge v. Bechtel Power Corp., 131 Ariz. 280, 283, 640 P.2d 211, 213 (App. 1982) (quoting Luth v. Rogers & Babler Constr. Co., 507 P.2d 761, 764 (Alaska 1973), superseded on other grounds by statute as stated in Petrolane Inc. v. Robles, 154 P.3d 1014, 1020 n.18 (Alaska 2007)).
At the time of the accident, in other words, "the employee must be subject to the employer's control or right of control." Robarge, 131 Ariz. at 284, 640 P.2d at 214.
Because an employee is usually not subject to the employer's control or right of control when commuting to or from work, our supreme court has adopted the "going and coming rule." See Schraft, 111 Ariz. at 132, 524 P.2d at 953.
Under the rule, "an employer is not liable for the tortious acts of his employee while the employee is going to or returning from his place of employment." Id.