In Ferreira v. Quezada, No. 40-2-3981 (N.J. Super. App. Div., August 7, 2017) an employee commuting to work in his personal vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian. The family of the pedestrian filed suit seeking damages from the employee and his employer, among others. The pedestrian’s family said the employer was liable for the employee’s negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Respondeat superior is a legal term that means an employer responsible for the negligence of its employees if the employee is acting within the scope of his employment when the negligence occurs.
The trial court found the employee was not acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred because;
(1) the employee was not paid for his time commuting, nor was he reimbursed for his mileage;
(2) the employer did not require employee to maintain or use the van for work purposes, nor did employer direct employee to take a specific route to work; and,
(3) the employer did not specify the tool he should use on the jobsite, nor did they require him to carry any materials from his home to the jobsite.
Therefore, the trial court dismissed the case against the employer.
On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal. The Appellate Division noted the employer did not require the employee to drive his vehicle to work and did not prevent him from using alternate means of transportation. Further, the court found there was no evidence that the employee was on call or on any type of “special mission” for the employer. A special mission is when an employee is both required by the employer to be away from its place of employment and is then actually engaged in the direct performance of duties assigned by the employer. The Appellate Division said the fact that employee was on his way to the office to perform some work-related duty was not enough to constitute a special mission.