Ky. Sup. Ct. Reverses Business Guest Rule

Feb. 25, 2008

The Kentucky Supreme has overruled prior case law by holding that a corporation could not be held responsible for injury or death of a guest who was accompanying an employee on a business trip, if the presence of the guest was not for a business purpose, even in cases where the corporation had not established a ‚Äúno rider‚Ä? rule.

Appeal reversing Ct. of Appeals and upholding summary judgment ruling of the MONTGOMERY CIRCUIT COURT - Case TO BE PUBLISHED  

MID-STATES PLASTICS, INC. V. ESTATE OF WILLIAM CLINTON BRYANT, BY AND THROUGH HIS EXECUTRIX, TINA S. BRYANT, ET AL. 

¬†¬†OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE SCHRODER ‚Äst

LawReader Keywords and Synopsis. 

Even if the employer fails to adopt a “no rider’ rule, and the employee’s invitation is within the scope of his/her employment, liability for tortious injures does not attach unless the invitation to the guest also served the purpose of accomplishing the work of the employer¬†

The question in this appeal is whether an employer is liable for an employee’s tortious injuries to a guest who accompanied the employee on a business trip. We¬†

opine that in order to hold the employer liable for the employee’s tortious injuries to the employee’s guest on a business trip, the employee must have acted within the scope of his authority in inviting the guest and for the purpose of accomplishing the work of the employer. Because the guest in this case had a strictly non-business purpose in accepting the employee’s invitation, we reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court’s dismissal .¬†

  

Edwards had a business trip to Indianapolis, and invited his pastor, Reverend William Clinton Bryant, along to visit the Reverend’s family while Edwards worked . The trip for the Reverend was free and involved no business purpose on his part for Mid-States. On this trip, Edwards personally leased a plane rather than flying his own. Unfortunately, the plane struck a cell phone tower and crashed on the return trip, killing both Edwards and Reverend Bryant.¬†

The Reverend’s estate and family filed suit against Mid-States and Edwards’ estate . The claim against Mid-States was premised on vicarious liability for the employee’s negligent piloting of the plane.¬†

In our case, it is clear that Reverend Bryant was a guest of Edwards and his presence “could not be construed as being for the purpose of accomplishing the work of the corporation,” as required by Wigginton before liability attaches to the master. 71 S.W.2d at 16 .

Also, the fact that Edwards was an officer of Mid-States (President, as well as the General Manager and Chief Executive) and not just an employee does not change the outcome. Wigginton made clear that “in order for a company to be held responsible for the tort of one of its officers he must be acting within the scope of his employment and in the furtherance of the corporation’s business .” Id.¬†

Even if the employer fails to adopt a “no rider’ rule, and the employee’s invitation is within the scope of his/her employment, liability for tortious injures does not attach unless the invitation to the guest also served the purpose of accomplishing the work of the employer. Since the invitation to Reverend Bryant in no way served the employer, Mid- States, the trial court was correct in granting summary judgment and dismissing the claim .¬†

¬†For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court’s entry of summary judgment dismissing the claims of the estate and family against Mid-States Plastics, Inc.¬†

 All sitting, except Cunningham, J . Abramson, Minton, Noble, and Scott, JJ ., concur. Lambert, CJ, dissents by separate opinion

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