Appeals Court: Jury Should Decide if Ad Agency is Liable for Injuries Caused by Driver of Vehicle in Mobile Ad Campaign

Georgia law makes employers liable for personal injuries resulting from negligent actions of their employees during work, such the injuries caused by a driver of a company vehicle who causes a car accident.

Not surprisingly, companies often attempt to skirt liability for the negligent actions of workers by claiming they are independent contractors instead of employees. Assessing a worker’s employment status always turns on the specific facts of a case. A recent Georgia Court of Appeals ruling reinforces the general rule that a jury should make that determination unless the facts are undisputed and crystal clear.

The case involved a motorcyclist and passenger who suffered injuries when a car struck them in Atlanta during a mobile advertising campaign.

The operator of the car was promoting the sale of cell phones as part of a fleet of eight vehicles traveling in tandem. Each vehicle carried a large billboard and was equipped as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

The driver of the car attempted to make a U-turn into opposing traffic and struck the motorcyclist and passenger.

The ad agency claimed that the driver was hired, paid and generally supervised by the limo service that the ad agency had contracted with to provide the vehicles and drivers for the campaign. A trial court judge agreed and dismissed the personal injury claims against the agency.

However, the Appeals Court reversed the case dismissal, saying the driver’s employment status remained in dispute.

Whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor essentially boils down to how much control an employer has over the individual’s work assignments.

The Appeals Court highlighted various facts suggesting the ad agency employed the driver.

For example, the ad agency directed when and where the fleet of vehicles was to operate. The vehicles, according to instructions from the agency, were to arrive at particular locations and times on specific days throughout the three-week campaign. The agency also had the final say on any alterations to routes or scheduling.

The court indicated that a reasonable jury could conclude that the ad agency maintained sufficient control over the driver, such as instructing her on time, method, and manner of her daily driving as part of the advertising campaign.

The ruling shows that determining who is liable for negligence of workers can be tricky and subtle. A skilled, experienced car accident attorney knows what questions to ask and how to dig up critical facts to prove that multiple parties are liable for personal injuries.

The case is Boatner v. Show Media LLC (No. A14A2080)