Employees can pit employers against each other just like children do with parents. If permission is limited by one person the employee/child will simply repeat their request to the other party. What an employee is permitted to do can be ambiguous. In a recent automobile accident case out of Shreveport however, the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed that employer “permission” in Louisiana provides a wide berth to an employee and can result in unexpected liability.
A former employee of Water Works Irrigation Inc. (“Water Works”), Lovell Ellis, used his assigned company truck to pick up his girlfriend, Raquel Coleman, outside of his normal service area. While the two were in the truck, Mr. Ellis ran off the road, wrecking the truck and injuring Ms. Coleman. Ms. Coleman claimed that Mr. Ellis was texting while driving and ran off the road. In his deposition, Mr. Ellis denied being on his phone but explained his swerving to avoid a log caused the accident. Later Mr. Ellis pled guilty to Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) but claimed that he drank only one beer.
As a result of the accident, Ms. Coleman sustained fractured vertebrae as well as other injuries. In January of 2012, Ms. Coleman filed a personal injury lawsuit against Mr. Ellis, Water Works, and Water Works’ Insurance company, United Fire Insurance (“United Fire”), seeking damages. After the dismissal of Water Works, the trial proceeded against Mr. Ellis and United Fire. The District Court found Ellis 100% at fault and United Fire liable for coverage. The District Court awarded damages of $47,449.67 to be paid by either or both defendants.