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Court Rules Employer Liable for Accident Involving Employee's Vehicle

November 4, 2011
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A contractor can be held liable for an employee hitting and injuring another worker with a truck, even though the accident involved the employee's personal vehicle, a California appellate court has ruled.

Augustus Vogt, who worked for Performance Concrete of Placentia, California, sought damages against Ontario, Calif.-based framing contractor Herron Construction Inc. for injuries he suffered in 2007 on a job site. Vogt, who was preparing to pour concrete at the site, was hit by a truck after he asked Jesus Cruz, a Herron employee, to move his vehicle from the area, according to court records.

Herron argued that Cruz was acting in his own interest when he moved the truck to protect it from potential damage, and that Vogt's injuries should not be considered work-related.

However, the California Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that Mr. Cruz was acting within his job duties because he needed to move the truck for Performance to pour the concrete.

"There was evidence that, by moving his truck, Herron's employee furthered the overall construction of the project; the resulting risk of injury was inherent to the enterprise," the court ruled. "Moreover, even assuming that he had the subjective purpose of preventing damage to his own truck, moving the truck was necessary to his comfort, convenience and welfare while on the job and thus still within the scope of his employment."

Cruz's decision to move his truck was an "outgrowth" of his job duties with Herron because he was trying to assist Performance Concrete, the court ruled Tuesday in Augustus Vogt et al. vs. Herron Construction Inc. "A subcontractor whose employees interfere with timely performance by other subcontractors is not long for the construction industry."

The ruling overturned a lower court decision in favor of Herron.

Sheena Harrison writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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