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Although the appellate court's standard of review for summary judgment remains de novo, a circuit court's order granting summary judgment must set out factual findings sufficient to permit meaningful appellate review. Findings of fact, by necessity, include those facts that the circuit court finds relevant, determinative of the issues and undisputed.
Bobby Courtless, while riding his bicycle, was struck by a vehicle driven by David Clyde Jolliffe, employee of Princess Beverly Coal Company (hereinafter "Princess"). Because of the accident, Courtless was rendered permanently disabled and was now a paraplegic. Jolliffe was en route to work at the time of the accident. Consequently, Gladys Jeanette Courtless, individually and as guardian and next friend of Bobby Thomas Courtless, instituted a civil action against Jolliffe and Princess, alleging that Princess was liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Discovery was initiated, and it was confirmed that although Jolliffe owned the vehicle, Princess paid the monthly payment on the truck, paid its maintenance and repair costs. Moreover, Jolliffe had free gasoline from Princess’ gas tanks. In exchange, Jolliffe daily used the vehicle at the work sites. Princess filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that Jolliffe was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The lower court entered summary judgment in favor of Princess. On appeal, Gladys Jeanette Courtless contended that the court erred in granting summary judgment where sufficient evidence existed to raise a jury question regarding whether Jolliffe was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
Was the grant of summary judgment proper under the circumstances?
The appellate court has set aside summary judgment for the employer, finding that the facts were not sufficiently developed and remanded for additional development regarding whether the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the collision. According to the court, that inquiry necessarily involved a determination of the scope of employment, leading to evaluation of the coming and going rule and its application to the facts. The court found that the trial court had to develop a complete and exhaustive determination of that application, all facts surrounding the employer's connection to the truck involved and the purposes for the employee's travel on the day of the accident particularly because the court might be compelled to render judgment on an evolving area of law in the state.