Stipulating to Course and Scope 2.0

We previously noted the decision of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana in Dennis v. Collins, 2016 WL 6637973 (W.D. La. 2016), in which the court held that a plaintiff cannot simultaneously pursue both (1) a negligence cause of action against an employee for which the employer is vicariously liable and (2) a direct negligent training and supervision cause of action against the employer when the employer stipulates that the employee was in the course and scope of employment when he committed the alleged negligence. The Middle District of Louisiana recently reached the same result on analogous facts.

In Wilcox v. Harco International Insurance, 2017 WL 2772088 (M.D. La. 2017), the defendant-driver was operating a commercial tractor-trailer owned by his employer when it collided with an automobile being driven by plaintiff. Although the underlying facts of the accident were disputed, defendants admitted that the defendant-driver was acting within the course and scope of his employment with the tractor-trailer’s owner at the time of the accident. Plaintiff asserted independent claims of negligence against both the defendant-driver and against the employer, specifically, that the employer failed to properly train the defendant-driver; failed to employ a safe and competent driver; failed to properly supervise and instruct its driver; and permitted its employees to drive while distracted. Defendants sought partial summary judgment arguing that it would constitute legal error for a jury to allocate separate fault against the employer independent of the negligence of its employee. The Court agreed both with this analysis and with the Western District’s holding in Dennis. Accordingly, the independent negligence claims against the employer-owner were dismissed with prejudice.

Wilcox v. Harco International Insurance

Eric W. Sella