Today the ABRAMS LANDAU, GARVER and CREAGER Law Firms argued an appeal on behalf of a husband and wife who were injured while biking in Fauquier County. They were struck by a motorist who was in the course and scope of his work for a real estate company. The trial court had ruled that despite the doctrine of respondeat superior, the company was not responsible for any of the traumatic brain injuries, broken bones and permanent disability damages caused by their agent, even though he did not carry the requisite car insurance as set forth in his employment agreement. The doctrine of respondeat superior is basically the rule that employers are liable for the actions of their employees while acting in the scope of their employment.
In Virginia, the existence of an employer-employee relationship creates a prima facie rebuttable presumption of the employer’s liability for the employee’s negligence. The Alexandria Federal District Court held that the motorist was “engaged in and about his master’s business” at the time of the crash, but that he was an “independent contractor.” For this reason, the trial judge entered judgment for the bikers against the agent only. On appeal, Landau, Garver and Creager argued that the issue was one that should have been properly determined by a jury instead of by a judge on summary judgment. A written decision from the appellate panel is expected this winter.