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Explaining the special errand doctrine

Business network connectivity has allowed companies in Fort Lauderdale to meet and converse with colleagues and clients all over the world. However, even the proliferation of this technology has not ended the need for business travel. The U.S. Travel Association reports that American took 452 million business trips in 2014 alone.

Given the amount of time that people spend traveling, accidents or incidents involving the destruction of property or injuries to others may seem inevitable. This may lead some to question whether or not an employer should be held responsible for the actions of an employee on a business trip.

The legal principle of respondeat superior assigns liability to employers for the actions of their employees. This is, of course, limited to those actions related to a person’s employment. Typically, one’s execution of his or her job duties is limited to the workplace.

There is, however, and exception this rule that the courts may follow when considering employer liability claims involving traveling employees. It is known as the “special errand” doctrine. It states that if an employee is traveling to fulfill an employer’s errand, the employer assumes the risk associated with those travels. An example of this may be if an employee has a few drinks at a business reception, then crashes his or her rental car on the way back to the airport. In such an event, the employer may be held liable for any injuries the accident may have caused, as well as any damages to the rental car.

However, the special errand doctrine does not apply if the employee deviates from completing his or her task for personal reasons. Thus, the employer may not be liable if in the aforementioned scenario, the employee was going to visit a friend before returning to the airport. 

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