The “going and coming” rule in employment law establishes that an employee is not acting within the scope of their employment while traveling to and from their workplace. However, if the employee is on an errand for their employer during their commute, then their conduct is within the scope of their employment. This exception is known as the “business errand” exception. This rule was at issue in the case of Sumrall v. Modern Alloys Inc.
Modern Alloys Inc. employed Juan Campos as a cement/mason finisher in October 2010. His job duties included setting forms, placing concrete, and smoothing it out once it was set. He received an hourly wage for an eight-hour shift, which began and ended at the job site where he performed his work. Modern Alloys had a contract to install a new center median at a job site on the 710 freeway. Modern Alloys expected Campos to first arrive at its yard in the City of Stanton at about 8:00 p.m., before working at the job site from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Crews from Modern Alloys would drive from the yard to the job site in company vehicles. Once Campos arrived at the yard, he would drive one of the company’s vehicles, a two-ton dump truck, from the yard to the job site and then return it to the yard at the end of his shift. Campos would take his coworkers along in the company’s truck, which was also loaded with construction materials.
On October 7, 2010, at about 7:30 p.m., Campos was driving from his home to the yard in his vehicle. Campos collided with Michael Sumrall, who was riding a motorcycle. The collision occurred on the street outside of the parking lot at the Modern Alloys yard. Sumrall filed a complaint against Modern Alloys alleging respondeat superior liability for Campos’ negligence; Sumrall’s spouse alleged loss of consortium.
Modern Alloys filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming Campos was not acting within the scope of his employment under the “going and coming” rule. Sumrall filed an opposition claiming that Modern Alloy was liable under the “business errand” exception. The trial court granted Modern Alloys’ summary judgment motion and entered a final judgment.
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s granting of the defendant’s summary judgment motion. The court could not state as a matter of law that the employee was not on a business errand while commuting from his home to the employer’s yard. The location of the “workplace” was an issue. If the yard is the employee’s “workplace,” then he was on an ordinary commute and he was not acting within the scope of his employment. But if the employee’s job site is his “workplace,” as the plaintiff infers, then the employee was arguably on a business errand to the yard for the employer’s benefit, and that business errand would have started when the employee left his home.
In determining if the papers show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact, the court shall consider all of the evidence outlined in the papers and all inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence. Summary judgment shall not be granted by the court based on inferences reasonably deducible from the evidence if contradicted by other inferences or evidence that raise a triable issue as to any material fact.
In Conclusion, The Importance of Determining an Employee’s “Workplace” and Business Errands During Commute: Lessons from the Sumrall v. Modern Alloys Inc. Case.
The Sumrall v. Modern Alloys Inc. case emphasizes the need to determine an employee’s “workplace” and whether they are on a business errand during their commute. If an employee is conducting an errand for their employer during their commute, it falls within the scope of their employment. Employers should consider specific circumstances to determine the scope of an employee’s conduct during their commute. Consulting with legal counsel, establishing clear policies, and providing guidelines on employee conduct during work-related activities, including commuting, can help avoid misunderstandings and ensure employees understand their responsibilities.
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