California employers are liable for the negligent actions of their employees when the workers are working within the course and scope of their jobs. When a worker negligently injures another person while working, both the worker and his or her company may be liable to pay damages. In Hernan Osorio v. Wesley T. Williams, et al., Los Angeles Superior Court, Case No. BC597023, a jury decided a case in which the course and scope of employment and soft tissue injuries were at issue.
Factual background of the case
On Oct. 10, 2013, Hernan Osorio, who was working for a company named Golden Gate of Orlando, was working to transport vehicles from lot to lot. At 9:45 a.m., Osorio was walking on the lot owned by Enterprise Rent-A-Car that is near the Los Angeles International Airport. Defendant Wesley T. Williams was working for Aerotek Aviation LLC. He placed his Ford Expedition in reverse and struck the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that he suffered minor impact, soft-tissue injuries and filed a lawsuit against Williams and Aerotek Aviation LLC.
Plaintiff argued that he placed his hands in front of him when he saw the Expedition backing up towards him, causing his arms to strike the rear window. He said that this action resulted in his body twisting, and he landed by sitting on the high rear bumper of the Expedition. He also claimed that he hit his head on the rear window when he landed on the bumper, but he denied that he fell to the ground.
Defendant Williams said that he was moving very slowly and did not hit the plaintiff with his vehicle. Both defendants stipulated that Williams was working in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
Demands and offers
Before trial, the plaintiff made a §998 demand in the amount of $150,000. The defendants countered with a §998 offer in the amount of $30,000. Since the parties were unable to reach a settlement agreement, the case proceeded to trial.
Trial and verdict
At trial, the defendants called two medical experts, including a hand surgeon and an orthopedic surgeon. The plaintiff did not call any medical experts at trial. After both sides rested, the jury was given the case for deliberations. The jury deliberated for a total of four hours over two days before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
The jury awarded a gross amount of $962,560 to the plaintiff. Of that amount, $76,360 was for past lost income, and $53,200 was for future income losses. The jury also awarded the plaintiff $10,000 for future expected medical losses. The remainder of the plaintiff’s award included $158,000 for past non-economic damages and $665,000 in future non-economic losses.
Vicarious liability in California
In this case, the defendants stipulated that Williams was working during the course and scope of his employment when the accident happened. California employers are deemed to be liable for the actions of their employees when the employees negligently cause injuries to others while they are working. People can be considered to be working within the course and scope of their employment when they are performing work-related tasks for their companies, including when they are off-site or driving for the benefit of their employers.
The ability to hold employers liable for the negligent actions of their employees may help plaintiffs by providing them with an additional source of recovery beyond the individual insurance coverage that the employee has. When a worker is working, plaintiffs may reach the employer’s insurance coverage in addition to the individual insurance policy of the worker. In many cases, the policy limits that people might have on their personal insurance policies may be insufficient to fully cover the losses that they suffer in accidents. Employers’ liability policies generally have much higher policy limits, allowing for the injured victims to recover full compensation for their losses in accidents that are caused by the workers.
By stipulating that Williams was working in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, Aerotek Aviation and Williams kept this potential legal issue out of the jury’s consideration. This meant that the sole defense on which they relied is that the accident simply did not happen.
Minor impact, soft tissue injuries
Osorio claimed that he had suffered minor impact, soft tissue injuries. The injuries that he claimed included soft tissue injuries to his neck, head, shoulders, legs, arms and his lower and upper back. He also claimed that the accident caused an aggravation to a pre-existing tear to his cartilage. Since no past medical damages were claimed or awarded, it is unclear whether he sought medical treatment for his injuries before the trial. However, he was awarded future medical costs, which means that he was able to convince the jury by a preponderance of the evidence that the accident did occur and he was injured in it. Since Osorio was also working at the time of the accident, it is possible that he was able to recover workers’ compensation benefits to pay for his medical expenses for the injuries that he suffered in the accident in addition to the lawsuit.
Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer
People who are injured in accidents that are caused by others who are working within the course and scope of their employment may be able to recover damages from both the negligent workers and their employers. An experienced personal injury attorney in Los Angeles may try to identify all potential sources of recovery so that his or her client might receive full compensation for the resulting losses. Contact the law firm of Steven M. Sweat to learn more about your accident and the rights to recovery that you might have.