Employer Liability for Employee Acts: Who Decides?

In a case where an injured party brings a claim against a person who caused them injury and that person’s employer, a jury question is often present as to whether the negligent employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment at the time they inflicted the injury upon the innocent third party victim. As long as a disputed issue of material fact exists, only juries can determine whether an employee was acting within the scope of their employment and/or acting solely for personal reasons. Under Georgia law, while courts are free to decide cases where there is no disputed issue of material fact on this question, as long as there are facts from which a jury could determine that an employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment on behalf of an employer, only a jury can decide whether the employer should be held legally liable for the damages inflicted by the negligent employee.
In a medical malpractice case, if the doctor involved is working on behalf his employer then in that event, the employer would be liable. If the doctor is coming home from an office function, and injures someone on his or her way home, the question arises as to whether this was a special office function the doctor was required to attend and/or whether there are any other disputed facts which would indicate that the doctor/employee was still acting within the scope of his employment and on behalf of his employer. Again, these cases are factually unique. The issues must be resolved by a jury except in cases where it is plan and palpable that the employee’s conduct was in no way connected to his or her employment.
Unless there is no dispute about the facts or unless it is clear that an employee’s conduct has nothing to do with their employment, Georgia juries will have to decide whether an employer will be liable for the tortious facts of an employee. Legal instructions to the jury will always provide that an employer should be held liable for acts committed by employees provided such employees were acting within the scope of their employment at the time of the complained of injury.

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