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Pet Therapy Volunteer Not an Employee of Kaiser Permanente for the Purposes of Vicarious Liability

In a recent case, the plaintiffs’ son was killed when he was struck by a vehicle driven by a Kaiser Permanente pet therapist as the therapist was driving home from the facility where he was volunteering.

Plaintiff parents sued defendant hospital for the acts of its volunteer pet therapist under the theory of respondeat superior.  The trial court granted the hospital’s motion for summary judgment.

The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. The court found no triable issue of material fact. The evidence showed the hospital permitted pet therapy volunteers to select the means of transportation for themselves and their animals, assigned the therapists to provide therapy at a variety of locations, checked the liability insurance of all volunteers who either provided a driver’s license or used their own vehicles, and had at one time offered to reimburse the therapist for his mileage. The therapist’s need to transport work material (i.e., his therapy dog), did not support a reasonable inference that the hospital required him to use his own personal vehicle to provide pet therapy. The therapist’s use of his own vehicle did not provide an incidental benefit to the hospital. Plaintiff provided no evidence that a specially outfitted vehicle was necessary to transport the therapy dog or that the hospital required the therapist to use a specially outfitted vehicle.  As a result of all of this, Kaiser Permanente was not responsible for the driving of its pet therapist.

Case referred to is: Savaikie v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (June 23, 2020, No. B291120) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 662].)

Respondeat superior is a theory of liability that should be looked into if you are involved in an automobile accident involving someone who is driving a company vehicle, or is working at the time of the incident (or any number of other scenarios).  The attorneys at Heiting & Irwin can look into whether it is an appropriate theory of liability in your matter.  Call us today.

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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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