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Employer was not Vicariously Liable for Employee who was Driving Home from Work Meeting

Curt Carlson and his employer, Jim Krampen, owner of Seven Corners, a hotel in Carmel, Indiana, met with a client at the hotel.  They consumed alcohol and had dinner.  Carlson was not required to be at the meeting as part of his employment, but it was a "natural part of his employment." As Carlson was driving home from the meeting, a collision occurred.  Carlson was arrested on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he registered 0.12 on an alcohol breath test machine.

As a result of the collision, Eboni Dodson was killed. Ms. Dodson’s estate filed suit against both Mr. Carlson and his employer under the theory of respondent superior. In Indiana, an employer may have vicarious liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior when an employee inflicts harm while acting within the scope of the employment.

The case got to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which found that Carlson was not acting in the scope of his employment at the time of the crash.  It noted the doctrine of respondeat superior is limited by the "going and coming" rule which says that an employee on his way to work is normally not in the employment of the corporation.  The Court pointed out that whether an employee was acting within the scope of his employment is a question of fact for the jury only if there are conflicting facts, or conflicting inferences to be drawn from the facts, regarding why the motorist was on the road at the time of the accident. 

The Court held that while Carlson's drinking before he drove home might have been in some way work related, it did not render inapplicable the "going and coming" rule. Therefore, Ms. Dodson’s estate does not have a claim against Mr. Carlson’s employer.

APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT

The Honorable Theodore M. Sosin, Judge

Cause No. 49D02-1009-CT-41815

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