In August of 2003 an employee of BNSF railroad was driving near grants New Mexico when his vehicle veered into oncoming traffic killing the driver of another vehicle. Not surprisingly, the drunk driver did not have car insurance nor any substantial assets.
The New Mexico car accident attorneys that pursued the case attempted to argue that the railroad company should be responsible for their employee's conduct. The two methods of connecting an employer to an employee's negligent conduct our vicarious liability or negligent retention/hiring.
With respect to vicarious liability, the court found that because the employee was not on the clock, and instead was on his own time, his employer was not responsible for his actions. Regarding the negligent hiring, the plaintiffs argued that because the employee had a substantial drinking problem and previous DWIs, the employer should have known that such an accident was likely to occur. Again, the court concluded that because it was not the negligent hiring or retention that was the cause of the accident, the employer could not be held responsible.
As evidenced by this New Mexico car accident case, connecting an employer to its employee's negligent conduct can oftentimes be a difficult task. Sadly, in this New Mexico drunk driving accident case, there are no winners or happy endings.