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Would you let him drive your car?

Posted: October 9, 2013 2:31 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2013 2:31 p.m.
Carl Kanowsky Carl Kanowsky
Carl Kanowsky

Hi. It’s great to be back with The Mighty Signal. Hopefully you’re glad to see me return. Now, on to today’s legal drama.

George, the CEO of Target-On-My-Back, told Judy, his plant manager, that he had a package that had to get to Target’s best customer, Wall Mark. “But,” Judy said, “Jorge, our normal delivery guy, is out sick today. Everyone else is tied up marking the spot on today’s run of targets. What do you want to do?”

George said, “Let’s use Hans. He’s got a car.” Judy was quite surprised. “He does? Since when? Has he even driven in the US since he got here two weeks ago from Finland? Heck, he doesn’t even have a California driver’s license.”

“He bought his neighbor’s car yesterday. And, so what if he’s not yet experienced roads in Santa Clarita. There’s no time like the present for him to learn.”

Judy skeptically asked, “Okay, but does he come back after the delivery or can he go home?” George, “Let him decide.”

This proved to not be one of George’s better decisions. After stopping at Wall Mark, Hans zipped by the mall (oh, sorry, the “Town Center”) and slammed into Martha, the 61-year old librarian at Newhall Elementary, injuring her severely.

My question to you – should George and Target-On-My-Back have any liability for this accident?

In Rayii v. Gatica, the Court of Appeal considered that same question in a case with some local color and celebrities with a very similar fact pattern.

Gatica, a resident of Santa Clarita, was working for Gateway, a construction company that used to have an office in Valencia. He was sent by Gateway to a jobsite in Lancaster. He was returning when he hit the plaintiff, Rayii.

Gatica had just bought a car the day before from his friend. He did not have a California driver’s license, and he had never driven in the United States.

So, he went to Lancaster and on the way back (never established if he was on his way home or back to Gateway), he crossed over the road and crunched into Rayii, injuring her.

Rayii’s attorney (Lancaster’s own R. Rex Parris) argued that since Gatica was running an errand for Gateway, he was in the course and scope of his employment, meaning Gateway would have to pay.

But the jury, judge and Court of Appeal disagreed. They essentially said that there wasn’t evidence that Gatica was going back to Gateway or was on a special errand. Therefore, Gateway had no liability.

But, a word to the wise. Gateway was playing with fire. If you’re not sure if your employee have ever driven in the US, don’t send him on an errand with his or the company car. Let him learn on his own time how to drive.

Carl Kanowsky of Kanowsky & Associates is an attorney in the Santa Clarita Valley. He may be reached by email at Mr. Kanowsky’s column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Nothing contained herein shall be or is intended to be construed as providing legal advice.



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