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Trahan-Laroche v. Lockheed Sanders - 139 N.H. 483, 657 A.2d 417 (1995)

Rule:

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer may be held vicariously responsible for the tortious acts of an employee committed incidental to or during the scope of employment.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Rita Trahan-Laroche and Lucien Laroche were injured when a flatbed trailer separated from the pickup truck towing it and collided with their vehicle. Patrick J. Maimone, who was employed by defendant Lockheed Sanders, Inc. ("Lockheed") as a maintenance mechanic, was the driver as well as the owner of both the truck and the trailer. Part of Maimone's tasks was to hay certain fields that belonged to Lockheed. In doing so, Maimone used his own equipment, and he was permitted to keep any hay he harvested. The accident occurred as Maimone traveled from Lockheed's field to his personal farm, where he planned get a load of hay to sell at a store. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Lockheed in New Hampshire state court under theories of respondeat superior and negligent supervision. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment; the trial court granted Lockheed's motion, and treating that motion as motion to dismiss, dismissed plaintiffs' action. Plaintiffs appealed.

Issue:

Did plaintiffs allege facts that constituted a basis for legal relief?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The state supreme court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter to that court. The court ruled that the motion to dismiss should not have been granted because the facts alleged by plaintiffs, if proven, together with the reasonable inferences derived therefrom, would constitute a basis for relief under their respondeat superior and negligent supervision claims. The court found that plaintiffs had alleged that the movement of Maimone's trailer for temporary personal use was understood to be part of the agreement between Maimone and his employer, Lockheed, regarding Maimone's provision of the farming equipment and removal of the hay, and was therefore incidental to employment. That allegation, the court concluded, could lead to a finding that would support recovery based on the doctrine of respondeat superior if found to be true by a jury. The court further held plaintiffs' allegations that, although Maimone was involved in several accidents involving vehicles and equipment while in Lockheed's employ, his activities were not closely supervised, and his equipment and vehicles were not regularly inspected, raised a jury issue as to whether the Lockheed negligently supervised Maimone.

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