Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Long Arm Statute and Vicarious Liability of Employer Addressed in Recent Pennsylvania Superior Court Auto Law Decision

In its recent decision in the case of Schiavone v. R.J. Aveta, 2012 Pa. Super. 68, 1352 EDA 2011 (Pa.Super. March 20, 2011)(Panella, Lazarus, Strassburger, JJ.)(Opinion by Lazarus, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed the sub-issue of “whether, as a matter of law, an employee driving directly home from work in a company owned vehicle is acting within the scope of his employment" for purposes of determining a personal jurisdiction issue presented in an auto accident case.

In this matter, the Defendant driver was driving a company car on his way home from work when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident with the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff sued the Defendant driver and his employer.

This decision covers an apparently novel appellate personal jurisdiction issue given that the defendant driver was driving home from his place of work in New Jersey to his home in Pennsylvania at the time of the accident. The accident happened in Pennsylvania.

To resolve the jurisdictional issue, the court compared and contrasted Pennsylvania’s Long Arm jurisdictional statute and the Worker’s Compensation Act.  The court acknowledged that this matter would come under an exception to the “coming and going” rule found in the Worker's Compensation context, which states that a worker not in scope of employment in worker's compensation matters when coming and going to and from work.

Yet, the Court held that, in the context of a third party litigation, an employee commuting home from work in a company-owned vehicle for which all travel expenses are paid for by the employer is indeed acting within the scope of his employment such that employer is responsible for any alleged negligent conduct resulting from the employee's driving. This holding led the court to find that jurisdiction was therefore appropriate over the Defendants under the circumstances presented in the case.

Anyone wishing to review this decision for more details may click this link:

http://www.courts.state.pa.us/OpPosting/Superior/out/A01030_12.pdf

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