Legal Question in Business Law in California

Pizza Delivery

My son got into an auto accident while delivering pizzas. The pizza owner says he does not have insurance for my car, only if my son got hurt. He would also cover the other party in the accident. My personal insurance excludes coverage when used in a business. So, right I am stuck with no coverage. Shouldn't the owner have to pay?

Asked on 4/23/07, 4:02 pm

6 Answers from Attorneys

Mark Muntean Mark Muntean, Attorney at Law
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Re: Pizza Delivery

The owner has to pay whether he has insurance or not. Insurance coverage is not the issue. Liability is the issue. If you son was an employee working within the scope of his employment the owner is on the hook no matter what. He pays for your car, he pays for the other car, he pays for your son's injusries, and he pays for the injuries to the other party.

Your insuance may cover your son and your car and subrogate (meaning you would sign over your rights to recover from the pizza shop owner) and they will collect from the pizza shop owner. This is fairly common.

Otherwise don't let the employer/shop owner give away with this.

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4/23/07, 4:14 pm
Jim Schaefer Schaefer & Associates
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Re: Pizza Delivery

The employee will be vicariously liable (liable for another wrongs) for the damages to your car whether or not it was your son who was at fault. Insurance is not the issue in this case -liability is. If your son was delivering pizzas in your car for the employer then the employer is liable to you as the third party owner of the car. In addition you may be liable to the other driver who was it because you gave your son permission to use your car.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer may be held vicariously liable for torts committed by an employee (negligent operation of a car even if it is your sons fault) within the scope of his or her employment (Henriksen v. City of Rialto (1993) 20 Cal. App. 4th 1612, 1618). This doctrine is codified in Civ. Code 2338, which provides that, unless required by or under the authority of law to employ that particular agent, a principal is responsible to third persons for the negligence of his or her agent in the transaction of the business of the agency, including wrongful acts committed by the agent in and as a part of the transaction of the business, and for the agent's willful omission to fulfill the obligations of the principal (Spradlin v. Cox (1988) 201 Cal. App. 3d 799, 808-809).

I suggest you write a letter to the employer demanding that he repair your car within a short period of time. Give him a time period to respond to you in writing by. Send the letter by certified mail return receipt requested. If he does not repair the car then get it repaired and sue him for the repair costs plus rental fees in small claims or otherwise if it is more than $7500.00.

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4/23/07, 4:35 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law
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Re: Pizza Delivery

There is at least one reported case in which the pizza company (Domino's) insurance did cover the family car of the delivery person, so I would start out by questioning the shop owner's statements that the car isn't covered.

Second, while I agree with the prior answer that liability, not coverage, is the real issue here, I'm not 100% sure the shop or its owner are liable just because the car was being operated in the course and scope of employment. Probably; but to get an answer from lawyers that deal with accidents and liability all the time, I'd suggest re-asking your question under a LawGuru heading such as torts, negligence, or auto accidents.

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4/23/07, 4:50 pm
Daniel Harrison Berger Harrison, APC
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Re: Pizza Delivery

You essentially have a two-part question. (1) Who is liable to the other driver, and (2) Will anyone be picking up the tab for your son.

Assuming your son was at least partially at fault for the accident, your son AND the business are BOTH liable to the other driver. Your son is liable because he was the negligent one. The business is liable under "respondeat superior," which is a doctrine which states that an employer will be vicariously liable for torts committed by employees acting within the course and scope of employment.

Second, will anyone pick up the tab for your son? In most circumstances, employers are more responsible and carry the requisite insurance. At any rate, your son should demand that the business defend him. If the business fails to do so, your son can sue the business for indemnity (and seek reimbursement of attorney's fees and costs).

If you would like to discuss this matter further, feel free to call or email.

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4/23/07, 6:37 pm
Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless
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Re: Pizza Delivery

The employer is liable for on job collisions like this, either through insurance or personally, for your son and the other party. Your son may also be liable if it was his fault. The other party can sue both your son and the employer, and your son would then have to deal with the suit. The employer should provide him legal defense. If they don't, get your own attorney and follow his advice.

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4/23/07, 8:55 pm
Alden Knisbacher Knisbacher Law Offices
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Re: Pizza Delivery

How many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb -- six lawyers, six answers. You should begin with Labor Code Section 2802 -- which requires that an employer indemnify employees for the costs incurred in carrying out their duties -- this includes defense of your son for the collision. The Department of Labor Standards Enforcement in CA has interpreted this Labor Code section to mean that if an employer reimburses employees at the IRS rate -- now 48 cents per mile - then the employer would not have to reimburse you for the accident. If, however, the 48 cents per mile is not paid, then the employer would have to pay the costs of fixing your car. . . . feel free to contact me at my private email if you wish to pursue this further -- and good luck.

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4/23/07, 11:11 pm

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