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Christensen v. Swenson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    After Swenson’s (Defendant) car collided with Christensen’s (Plaintiff) motorcycle while she was on her lunch break, Plaintiff sued her and her employee, arguing that she was within her scope of employment when the accident occurred.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In order for an employer to be vicariously liable for an employee’s tortious conduct, the employee must have been acting within the scope of her employment at the time.

    Facts.

    Defendant was a security guard who was on a lunch break when her car collided with Plaintiff’s motorcycle. Plaintiff sued both Defendant and her employer. The employer moved for summary judgment, arguing that Defendant was not acting within the scope of her employment when the accident occurred. The trial court granted the motion and Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the question of whether Defendant was acting within the scope of her employment was a genuine issue of material fact.

    Issue.

    Must an employee be acting within the scope of her employment for the employer to be subject to vicarious liability for the employee’s tortious conduct?

    Held.

    (Durham, J.) Yes. In order for an employer to be vicariously liable for an employee’s tortious conduct, the employee must have been acting within the scope of her employment at the time. Birkner v. Salt Lake County, 771 P.2d 1053, 1057 (Utah 1989) lays out three criteria for determining whether an employee is acting within the scope of her employment: 1) the employee’s conduct must be of the general kind that the employee was hired to perform; 2) the employee’s conduct must occur substantially within the hours and ordinary spatial boundaries of her employment; and 3) the employee’s conduct must be at least partially motivated by an intent to serve the employer’s interest. In this case, the record demonstrates that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to all three criteria. Reversed and remanded.

    Discussion.

    The Restatement (Second) of Agency § 229(2) provides ten factors for a court to consider in deciding whether an employee was acting within the scope of his employment. The doctrine that makes employers liable for torts committed by their employees while acting within the scope of that employment is called respondeat superior. Here, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident, and he sought damages from both the defendant and her employer.



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