Sunday, February 3, 2013

O'Connor v. McDonald's Restaurants of California, Inc. case brief

O'Connor v. McDonald's Restaurants of California, Inc. case summary
269 Cal. Rptr. 101 (Cal. Ct. App. 1990)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Appellant victim challenged the judgment from the Superior Court of San Diego County (California), which granted summary judgment in favor of respondent employer, in appellant's complaint for damages for personal injuries on a theory of respondent's vicarious liability for the negligence of its employee.

FACTS: Appellant victim was injured when his motorcycle collided with an automobile driven by respondent employer's employee. Appellant contended that the superior court erred in determining that the employee had completely departed from a special errand on behalf of respondent and was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
The superior court found, and the parties did not challenge, that the employee's conduct at the time of the accident constituted a special errand on respondent's behalf. The question then was whether the conduct at the time of the accident constituted a complete departure from the special errand.

Because disputed factual questions and reasonable inferences precluded a determination as a matter of law of the issue whether the employee completely abandoned his special errand; the court should have denied respondent's motion for summary judgment. Thus, summary judgment was reversed and appellant was given costs on appeal.

RULES:-Generally, an employee is outside the scope of his employment while engaged in his ordinary commute to and from his place of work.
-This principle is known as the going-and-coming rule and is based on the theory that the employment relationship is suspended from the time the employee leaves his job until he returns and on the theory that during the normal everyday commute, the employee is not rendering services directly or indirectly to his employer.
-However, when the employee is traveling from his residence or returning to it as part of his usual duties or at the specific request or order of his employer, he is considered to be on a special errand for his employer and thus acting within the scope of his employment.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the summary judgment in favor of defendant because, whether the employee was merely "diverted" rather than "completely departed" from his special errand when the accident occurred, required resolution of disputed triable factual issues.

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