Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC Articles Dominoes Pizza Delivery Crash Ends in $10M Verdict

Dominoes Pizza Delivery Crash Ends in $10M Verdict

By Steven M. Sweat  Apr. 29, 2016 12:15p

In a recent case involving a Domino's Pizza delivery driver who was involved in a serious accident, the pizza giant was held to be civilly liable by a jury. After a week-long trial, the jury returned a verdict of $10 million against Domino's Pizza for the negligent actions of a driver working for one of the company's franchisees. The case demonstrates the legal concept of respondeat superior, through which an employer may be held liable for the actions of their employees in certain situations.

The case

A fire chief was driving on Jan. 13, 2011 in Florida when a Domino's Pizza delivery driver pulled out and tried to merge into the lane in which the fireman was driving. The fireman tried to avoid the pizza driver's car, losing control and crashing into a tree. The fireman was paralyzed from the chest down in the accident.

His wife cared for him, including bathing him, feeding him and taking care of all of his needs for the 15 months following the accident. He died in March 2012 from the injuries he had received. In the wrongful death lawsuit, the jury assigned 90 percent of the responsibility for the accident to Domino's Pizza for the negligent driving of its driver. The jury assigned 10 percent of the responsibility to the fireman, returning a total verdict of $10 million. This means the fireman's wife will receive $9 million if the verdict withstands appeals.

Respondeat superior and employer liability

The jury's verdict means that Domino's Pizza was found to be responsible for both its individual franchisee and the delivery driver hired to work at the franchise. Liability of employers for the actions of their employees is a type of vicarious liability from the common law called respondeat superior. Under this legal theory, an employer may be responsible for the negligence of their employee if several circumstances apply. The employee must have been working within the scope or course of his or her employment at the time of the accident. The injury caused to the plaintiff must have happened while the employee was engaged in an activity for his or her job.

An employer does not have to be found to be at fault to be held liable through this theory. Instead, the agency relationship between the employer as the principal and the worker as the agent of the employer is enough to establish responsibility. The California Supreme Court has found that three reasons exist for holding employers liable for the actions of their employees, including all of the following:

● To discourage others from engaging in similar negligent conduct
● To provide a better likelihood that the victim would be fairly compensated; and
● To ensure that employers that benefit from the activities of their agents will bear responsibility for paying to cover losses caused by the employees while they are working.

Other cases

When people are injured in accidents caused by delivery drivers or anyone who is driving for their employer, the injured victims may be able to name the employers as defendants in their personal injury lawsuits using the theory of vicarious liability. If you or a loved one has been injured in this way in California, contact a personal injury attorney to learn about your rights and to get help.

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