A jury awards Seven Schmidt $ 1.68 million dollars for the negligence of a power company employee. Although this award is from out of state, as a Modesto auto accident attorney, I want to remind readers of the importance of hiring an competent personal injury attorney when you are injured by the negligence of others. In addition, suing the government and their negligent employees is sometimes overwhelming if you don’t have the right lawyer. The most common example of government employee negligence is where that employee is the cause of a car accident.
Vicarious liability makes one person liable for another persons actions. There are many times when this type liability applies. One common example is the employer-employee situation. In terms of the law this is called the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, employers are liable for their employee’s wrongdoing and their torts when the employee is acting “within the scope of employment” To prove that the employee was acting withing the scope of their employment the moving party must establish (1) the conduct occurred within the time and space limits of their employment (2) the employee must have been serving the needs of the employer and (3) the act must have been for what the employer was hired to do.
The government is not liable for their employees actions under the common law theory of respondeat superior, but are liable because the government has passed legislation that allows a person to sue them. In order to sue the government or one of their employees you have to comply with the California Government Tort Claims Act (Government Code § 814, et seq.) or the Federal Tort Claims Act. There are very strict time limits in which to bring a lawsuit under these provisions. For example to sue a Stanislaus County, Modesto employee or any government employee, there must first be a claim made with the local government. In California, that claim must be made with the local governmental entity within 6 months of the harm. There is no flexibility with this rule. If it is not adhered to, then there cannot be a lawsuit filed in court. The local governmental entity has 45 days to accept or deny the claim. Once the claim is denied you have 6 months to file suit in a California court.
California Tort Claims Act & Federal Tort Claims Act
Under the California Tort Claims Act, a public employee is liable for injury caused by his act or omission to the same extent as a private person. (Cal.Gov. Code, § 820(a).) There are some exceptions, but that is for another discussion. The point here is that if the government employee could have been sued in a private capacity, then they can be sued for their negligence while working on behalf of the government. If found liable, then the government would be required to pay the verdict amount. (pending any appeals)