Employer Liability in Georgia
When can a business be sued for an employee’s action?
Most any business can be sued for an employee’s wrongful conduct if the employee is acting with company authority. For example, a common scenario occurs when a business gets sued after an employee gets into a car accident while running an errand for the business. In certain situations, employees can even legally bind a business into a contract without company approval!
In a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, the doctrine of respondeat superior applies in Georgia to hold an employer liable for the negligent or intentional acts of employees acting within the “scope and course” of their employment. The “scope and course” of employment test is determined by what the employee was doing at the time of the injury. For example, in Gassaway v. Precon Corp., 280 Ga. App. 351 (2006), the employee caused a traffic accident while taking an extended lunch to look for a new place to live. The court determined that this was a purely personal errand and was not in the scope and course of the employment. Similarly, in a case where its a hospital was sued after its employee rubbed a patient inappropriately, the court held that the hospital was not liable because the action was not done in furtherance of the hospital’s business. Piedmont Hosp., Inc. v. Palladino, 276 Ga. 612 (2003).
On the other hand, the court determined a business was liable when after its employees caused an accident by abandoning a truck in the middle of the road at night with no hazard lights on. Hillside Orchard Farms v. Murphy, 222 Ga. App. 106 (1996). Similarly, for example, a hospital is often sued in connection with a medical malpractice case against its nurses or doctors.
An employer may also be sued for hiring or keeping an employee they know is not suited for the job in an action for negligent hiring or negligent retention. For example, schools have a duty to do a background check on their employees to make sure students are not placed with employees having a criminal past. Additionally, in some circumstances an employer can be liable on a contract that their employee entered into without permission if the third party reasonably believes that the employee has the authority to act on the employer’s behalf. Restat 2d of Agency, § 161.
Califf Law Firm LLC is an Augusta, Georgia firm specializing in employer liability. Contact us today for a free consultation with an Augusta, Georgia liability lawyer.