What is an employer’s liability for an employee’s off-duty actions?

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What is an employer’s liability for an employee’s off-duty actions?

We own our own mobile detailing business and years ago we had a guy working for us tha,t as a favor, did a friend’s car. Our business didn’t have anything to do with it. The friend is now calling us saying that we ruined the paint and he wants us to pay for it. We have explained that the business had nothing to do with it but he is threatening to get a lawyer. What do we do?

Asked on September 2, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

An employer is liable for the negligence of the employee which occurred during the course and scope of employment.

Since the employee or former employee painted the car on his own outside of his employment with your company, he was not acting during the course and scope of his employment with your company.  Therefore, your company is NOT liable. 

You said that this happened "years ago".  Depending on how many years have elapsed, the statute of limitations may have expired which would bar your "friend's" claim / lawsuit.

You should assert these arguments in the event any lawsuit is filed.  Depending on the amount of damage to the car from the paint, this may be a Small Claims Court case where there aren't any attorneys if your friend attempts to file a lawsuit.


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