Wilfrido Cruz, a college recruiter at the University of Vermont, rented a car for a recruiting trip to a New Jersey high school. Along for the trip: Cruz’s girlfriend—who was under 18 and not licensed to drive.
After visiting the New Jersey school, he decided to continue to North Carolina to visit his sister.
Growing tired after several hundred miles on the road, Cruz turned over the driving duties to his girlfriend. In Virginia, she collided with a van, injuring a woman.
She sued Cruz and the University of Vermont, claiming Cruz was on university business. Cruz maintained that he was going to stop by the New Jersey high school on his return trip, so the accident in Virginia was within the scope of his employment.
The university, however, saw things differently. While it might have tolerated a short social visit near the high school, a 600-mile southern swing was more than it could take. Similarly, allowing an underage, unlicensed driver to wreck a rental car was nowhere in Cruz’s instructions.
A Virginia court sided with the university: It can’t be held liable for the accident.
Note: If your employees travel on company business, use company cars or rent cars for business, make sure you have an auto-use policy that makes it clear that zany antics like Cruz’s detour to Dixie fall outside the scope of employment.
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