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Lyft not Responsible for Negligence of Off Duty Lyft Driver in Lyft-Rented Vehicle

In a recent case (Marez v. Lyft, Inc. 2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 360), plaintiffs filed suit against an employee and his employer, a ridesharing company, after the employee, driving a vehicle rented through the employer’s “Express Drive program,” struck plaintiffs’ vehicles and caused significant injuries.

The trial court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the employer was liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior and granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiffs appealed.  The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment finding, under the undisputed facts presented, the court could not conclude the employee’s driving, at the time of the accident, could be interpreted as within the scope of his employment with the employer.

There was nothing in the record which demonstrated that the employer required drivers to use the employer rentals. Nor did the record support plaintiffs’ claim that driving the rental for personal purposes, in this instance, was incident to the employee’s duties.

The court held that the undisputed facts compelled the conclusion, as a matter of law, that the employee had substantially deviated from any duties he performed for the employer at the time of the accident. The employee was engaged in a purely personal activity at the time of the accident. He had not worked for the employer on the day of the accident and had no intention of doing so. The employee testified he spent the entire day working at an alternative job for another employer at a gaming conference, was away from his vehicle during the day, and was driving home to eat and sleep at the time of the accident. It thus could not be concluded the employer derived any benefit from the employee’s use of the vehicle on the day in question. The “going and coming” rule and any exception thereto was also inapplicable because the employee was not returning home after driving for the employer. The court concluded that while the employee had permission from the employer to use the rental vehicle for personal driving, his driving at the time of the accident could not be interpreted as conferring a benefit to the employer.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeal had the following holdings:

  1. An employer was not liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior where its employee’s driving, at the time of the accident, could not be interpreted as within the scope of his employment with the employer, as nothing in the record demonstrated that the employer required drivers to use the employer rentals, nor did the record support plaintiffs’ claim that driving the rental for personal purposes, in this instance, was incident to the employee’s duties, but rather, the undisputed facts compelled the conclusion, as a matter of law, that the employee had substantially deviated from any duties he performed for the employer at the time of the accident;
  2. While the employee had permission from the employer to use the rental vehicle for personal driving, his driving at the time of the accident could not be interpreted as conferring a benefit to the employer.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Ultimately, the plaintiffs could pursue a claim against the defendant driver – the Court of Appeal simply found that Lyft was not responsible for the negligence of that driver at the time of the incident under a theory of respondeat superior.

We at Heiting & Irwin have decades of experience handling auto claims and have been handling cases involving ridesharing companies for as long as they have been around.  If you have been involved in an automobile accident, whether or not a rideshare company was also involved, give us a call.

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Mr. Serrano has been admitted to practice before California State and Federal Courts. He was named to the Super Lawyers’ 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 Southern California Rising Stars List, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5% of attorneys in Southern California each year. View Attorney Jean-Simon Serrano's Attorney Bio Here.

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