Employer Liable for Car Crash Injury on Way Home
A case heard by the Privy Council makes required reading for any employer who provides non-contractual benefits to their employees.
In principle, the legal point was simple, although the legal issues raised were not. Could an employer who provided the vehicle be found vicariously liable for injuries sustained in an accident by an employee who was being driven home from work by a colleague, where the driver was prosecuted and found to be negligent in causing the accident?
The case was the result of an appeal to the Privy Council against a decision made by the Supreme Court of Mauritius. The injured man and the driver both work for the University of Technology, Mauritius (UTM). The law there requires an employer in some circumstances to provide transport home for employees who live more than three miles from work or to pay for public transport, if available. UTM had as a matter of custom allowed its vehicles to be used by employees to go home and had a procedure for them to be 'booked out' by staff.
The argument was that UTM had a contractual obligation to provide the injured man with transport and, because he was driven home by a fellow employee, that contract had been breached by the negligent failure of UTM's agent (the driver) to perform his obligation to convey the man home safely.
The Privy Council agreed that UTM should be liable for the man's injuries under the law of contract.