Legal Memorandum: Employer's Liability for Employee's Acts

Issue: In Texas, when is an employee was acting in the course and scope of his employment in the case of a car accident?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Employer's liability; Negligent acts of its employees; Evidence
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 138 S.W.2d 1057; 557 S.W.2d 149
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 08/01/2000

In Robertson Tank Lines, Inc.  v. Van Cleave, 468 S.W.2d 354 (Tex. 1971), the court held that the “basic facts of ownership of a truck and employment of an individual as the driver of that truck, standing alone and rebutted by positive evidence” do not constitute probative evidence that the driver was acting within the “scope of his employment” at the time of an accident.  The driver in Robertson was delivering a tankload of methanol in Odessa, Texas. 468 S.W.2d at 357. After making the delivery, he was told that there were no more loads to haul and that he should return the truck to Corpus Christi, Texas. Id.  He was not told to travel along any particular route on the return trip. Id.

Instead of returning directly to Corpus Christi, the driver drove in the opposite direction, approximately eight miles, in order to visit his father who worked in the area.  Id. A cousin of the driver then arrived and the two spent approximately twelve hours drinking beers and visiting.  Id.  Later that night, the driver started his truck, but did not turn the lights on.  Id.  He then went into a cafe with his cousin, leaving the truck idling on the street.  Id.  While the driver was in the cafe, a motorist struck the unlighted truck and was killed.  Id.

The Robertson court noted that “[i]t is recognized in Texas that when it is proved that the truck was owned by the defendant [employer] and […]

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