Sumrall v. Modern Alloys, Inc.

10 Cal. App. 5th 961, 216 Cal. Rptr. 3d 848 (2017)



The business errand exception will be made to the going and coming rule where the trip involves an incidental benefit to the employer, not common to commute trips by ordinary members of the work force. In general, an employee is not acting within the scope of employment while travelling to and from the workplace. But if the employee, while commuting, is on an errand for the employer, then the employee's conduct is within the scope of his or her employment from the time the employee starts on the errand.


Appellee company paid appellant employee only for the hours he worked at a jobsite. But rather than driving his vehicle directly from his home to the jobsite, appellee expected appellant to first commute to its “yard.” Appellant would then drive a company truck from the yard to the jobsite, transporting coworkers and materials. One day, while driving from his home to the yard, appellant collided with a motorcyclist, who sued appellee. The trial court granted appellee summary judgment, finding that appellant was commuting to his “work,” and therefore he was not acting within the scope of his employment. The appellate court reversed the judgment.


Was the appellant employee acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident?




The existence of two reasonable inferences precluded summary judgment for an employer on the going and coming rule because an employee who was driving his own vehicle from his home to the employer's yard at the time of a collision might have been on a normal commute. However, in the instant case, because appellant employee was expected to transport appellee employer's vehicle, workers, and materials from its yard to the jobsite and was not paid until he reached the jobsite, it could reasonably be concluded that appellant was also on a business errand for appellee's benefit while commuting from his home to the yard. It could also be reasonably found that appellant's commute incidentally benefited appellee and was not common to ordinary members of the public traveling to and from work.

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