May 27, 2021
Plaintiffs filed a negligence action against Defendant Arborworks, Inc. for damages arising out of an automobile accident wherein a vehicle containing four Arborworks’ employees drove off a cliff on Highway 49 near Yosemite and rolled 1500 feet down the hillside. One of the three Plaintiffs, who was carried up the hillside by first responders, alleged serious orthopedic and traumatic brain injuries that were permanent and disabling and affected his ability to work in any capacity. Plaintiffs alleged Arborworks was vicariously liable for the motor vehicle accident because the driver of the vehicle was employed by Arborworks and was on a special errand driving the employees of Arborworks from their mountain cabin to a Spanish-speaking CPR class.
On behalf of its client, the Burnham Brown team filed a motion for summary judgment arguing there was no evidence of vicarious liability because the special errand exception to the going and coming rule did not apply. Specifically, the Burnham Brown team argued that the trip giving rise to the accident was a personal endeavor of the plaintiffs as a matter of law. Alternatively, the Burnham Brown team argued, even assuming the special errand doctrine applied to the trip, the Plaintiffs’ exclusive remedy would be limited to worker’s compensation claims because they would be found to be in the course and scope of their employment with Arborworks. After engaging in significant discovery and making a policy limits demand, Plaintiffs' Counsel ultimately withdrew from representation rather than oppose the motion for summary judgment. Thereafter, the Mariposa Superior Court granted the motion for summary judgment, finding there was no triable issue of material fact regarding Arborworks’ vicarious liability because the Plaintiffs were on a personal endeavor on the trip giving rise to the accident. Judgment was entered on behalf of Arborworks. This was the third dispositive motion won by the commercial automobile team of Paul Caleo and Lynn Rivera in the last year.