A car insurer is not immune from liability for the careless driving of a policyholder who injured another officer during a training day, Massachusetts decided & # 39;
While the injured official was on paid work at the time of the incident, other factors, including the other official's behavior, mean that liability for damages is not limited to the workers comp system, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled i Berry v. Commerce Insurance Co.
In June 2017, police officers at Raynham, Massachusetts Police Department participated in a paid eight-hour mandatory weapons training held on city-owned properties, which included a paid lunch break.
When he returned to the area from lunch, one of the training officers, Shawn Sheehan, struck and seriously injured a fellow officer, who was sitting at a picnic table undergoing training at the time. Mr. Sheehan drove his personal vehicle, which was insured by Commerce Insurance, a US entity of the Spanish insurance company Mapfre, according to court documents.
Mr. Sheehan testified that when he drove into the area, he was driving "faster than [he] should have" and came in "a little hot and spinning on the rear tires." He said he "stopped and then rushed up, spun rocks or gravel" before braking again, causing the truck to slip and hit Russell Berry who pinched his leg between the truck and the table where he was sitting.
misconduct, Mr. Sheehan was suspended for five days without pay. Mr. Berry suffered serious leg injuries and received medical bills of more than $ 1
Mr. Berry sent a letter of demand to Commerce, claiming that the car insurance company was responsible for payments to cover his damages. Commerce denied coverage on the grounds that Mr. Sheehan was a public servant who had acted "within the framework of his… Employment" at the time of the accident and was therefore immune from liability under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act.
In its judgment, the Supreme Court stated that "not all tortious conduct committed by an employee in connection with his or her work is within the scope of the employee's employment."
incident falls within the scope of the employment: if the behavior is of the kind that the employee is hired to perform; if it occurs within permitted time and space limits; and if it is at least partially justified to serve the employer.
The court ruled that only the time and space limitation factor favored the insurer.
Mr Sheehan "did not act in the course of his employment", the document states, noting that "his unsafe driving was not motivated, not even in part, by a purpose to serve his employer. "nor" promoted the interests of the city. " The court ruled that Mr. Sheehan's misconduct had no employment-based purpose," to take what which otherwise could have been a close case and certainly placed it outside the realm of action immunity. "
Mapfre could not be immediately reached for comment.