QUESTION OF FACT AS TO WHETHER AUTO PARTS DRIVER ON PERSONAL ERRAND WAS IN “COURSE AND SCOPE” OF HIS EMPLOYMENT AT TIME OF ACCIDENT
Last month, the Arizona Court of Appeals published an opinion holding that there was a question of fact for a jury to decide as to whether an employee was in the “course and scope” of his employment at the time he was involved in a serious auto accident despite the fact that at the time of the accident he was on his way home to get cigarettes and was traveling in the opposite direction from his place of employment. Higginbotham v. AN Motors of Scottsdale, (Ariz. App. February 2, 2012). The Court’s rationale was that the employer (an auto dealership) knew that the employee took refreshment breaks and ran personal errands during his downtime and authorized him to do so. His job involved picking-up auto parts and delivering them to the dealership by designated times. At the time of the accident, the employee still had the auto parts he had picked up earlier that morning in his vehicle and had time remaining before he and the auto parts were due at the dealership. If a jury were to find the employee was in the “course and scope” of his employment at the time of the accident, then his employer could be liable for any negligence attributed to the employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior. This could prove significant especially for the husband whose wife was killed in the accident and was suing the employee and employer to recover wrongful death damages. This opinion appears to have originally been a Memorandum Decision decided in August of 2011. Thus, it appears that this decision now has precedential value and may be cited as such, unless of course, a higher court were to review and over turn the decision.