The Arizona Supreme Court ruled this week that an employer is not liable for injuries sustained by a third party involved an automobile crash with the company employee during a work trip. The Supreme Court held that employers are not liable for the actions of an employee while traveling on assignment, if the employee is not acting within the scope of his or her employment and the employer exerted no control over the employee’s actions.
Here, Grey was employed by Golf Interstate Engineering, Inc., a Houston Texas Energy Consulting Company, at the time of the crash Grey, a Texas resident was working on a project in Mexico and staying in a hotel across the border in Yuma, Arizona. He would travel back and forth to the project in a rental car and his employer reimbursed him for his travel and meal expenses. Since the travel to and from the project site and his hotel involved border crossing and possible delays, his employer considered the work day complete when its workers returned to their hotel rather than when they left the job site.
On December 11, 2007, Grey returned to his hotel and then went out for dinner to a restaurant in Yuma. While traveling back to his hotel, he was involved in a motor vehicle crash involving a motorcycle. The motorcyclist claimed that Grey failed to yield and made an improper left turn, hitting his motorcycle and thereby injuring him. The injured motorcyclist Aaron Engler filed a lawsuit against Grey and Golf Interstate Engineering, Inc., his employer.
Golf filed a motion for summary judgment maintaining that Grey was not acting within “course and scope of his employment.” The trial court agreed and granted the motion on behalf of Golf.
Of note, the Engler decision was appealed on the basis that the court concluded that Grey’s eating dinner while on assignment was no different than while he was not on assignment. Because Golf imposed no control over Grey as to where he could dine or what he could do once he returned to the hotel for the night, the court held the company could not be vicariously liable for his actions.
The case is Aaron Engler v. Gulf Interstate Engineering, CV-11-0273-PR.