Employee Driving Without Consent of Employer: Who’s Liable?

April 10th, 2015 by

When my friends and I first got our G2 driver`s license and were able to drive a vehicle by ourselves with no one else in the car, we would find any excuse to ask our parents if we could take the car out. All out of milk? No, problem I’ll just reverse out of the driveway in our 1999 Buick Century (while checking my mirrors constantly) and head on over to the grocery store (with the music played at a moderate level) to pick some up. Some of my friends didn’t bother looking for an excuse, or sometimes didn’t bother asking to take the car for a spin. They just took it.

Luckily, when they did take the car for a ride without their parent’s permission, they managed to avoid accidents. However, in the unfortunate case that an accident were to happen, the fact that they took their parent’s car without their consent could have serious consequences with respect to insurance and who is liable to pay for any damage done to the car or injuries to individuals.

In short, consent matters.

Now, let’s slightly change the scenario. Let’s say instead of a young adult taking his mother’s car without her permission, it was an employee driving an employer’s car without their permission. Also, let’s say that while the employee was driving an employer’s car without their permission, the employee got into a motor vehicle accident. Now what? Is the employer liable for the employee’s car accident even though that employee was never given consent to drive?

According to the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the answer is yes. But wait a minute, doesn’t consent (or in this case a lack of consent) matter? Well, it still kind of does.

In Mustafi v All-Pitch Roofing Ltd, Marc Carroll, an employee of All-Pitch Roofing, was told by his employer that although he had the keys to the company truck and trailer, he was to only use it for the tools and supplies it contained, and to stay warm if necessary. Marc was specifically told not to drive the truck.

Nevertheless, Marc drove the truck without the consent of his employer and was involved in an accident. The court proceedings centered around a provision of the Alberta Traffic Safety Act which stated that if a person, who at the time the accident occurred, was driving the car and was in possession of the vehicle with the consent of the owner, they are deemed to be an agent or employee of the owner of the car and to be driving the car in the course of that person’s employment.

The significance of this provision is that it would allow those injured in the car accident to seek compensation from Marc’s employer, All-Pitch Roofing Ltd. Understandably, the employer in this scenario would not want to be liable for an employee who drove the work truck without his consent.

The Court of Appeal of Alberta ultimately found that it was enough that the employer had consented to Marc having possession of the car and that it did not matter that it told Marc not to drive the car. The court stated that third parties, such as the individual who was in the accident with Marc, should not have the conditions attached to Marc`s possession of the car (i.e., that he was not to drive it) enforced against them.

This should serve as a cautionary tale to employers whose employees use or are given possession of vehicles by their employer. If you do not want to be held liable for the possibly negligent driving of your employee, your best bet is to not consent to them having possession of the vehicle in the first place.

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