Pedestrian accidents are unfortunately a common problem when crossing streets in all over America. If you are hit by a car that fails to yield at an intersection, you may have the right to seek compensation from not only the negligent driver, but also the owner of the vehicle and any other party that may be responsible for putting you in danger. For example, if the negligent driver was acting within the scope of his or her employment, you may have a personal injury claim against the employer.
Security Company May Be Liable for Guard's Use of Tenant's Car
It is not always a simple matter to sort out an employer's potential liability. Here is a recent example. In 2014, a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle while crossing a street in Queens. The vehicle's driver was a security guard at a nearby apartment building. The car itself belonged to one of the building's tenants. The security guard claimed he routinely use the tenant's vehicle with permission, but the tenant denied granting such permission on the day of the accident.
The pedestrian sued four parties: the driver, the tenant, the security company that employed the driver, and the owner of the apartment building. Queens Supreme Court denied the building owner and security company's motions for summary judgment. On appeal, the Appellate Division, First Department said the building owner was entitled to summary judgment, but not the security company.
The building owner could not be liable for the pedestrian's injuries, the appeals court explained, because it did not employ the security guard or own the car involved in the accident. As for the security company, the court said there were still unresolved questions as to whether the driver “was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred.” At this stage of the case, it was not clear whether the tenant had given the security guard permission to use his car. More to the point, it was unclear whether the security company “could have reasonably anticipated that its security guards, who had access to tenants' keys and vehicles, might operate the vehicles outside of the garage and cause injury to third parties.”
There was some disagreement among the appeals judges on this point. The majority said there was evidence that could establish the security company's liability based on the fact it authorized security guards to use tenant cars in order to accommodate their requests (e.g., to run errands for the tenant). But in a concurring opinion, two judges thought it was beyond question that the tenant did not authorize the driver to use his car. These judges said the security company could still be liable, however, for “direct negligence” because it kept the keys to the tenant's car in a “security booth where anyone could have had access.”