SANTA BARBARA INDEPENDENT reporter, Tyler Hayden, reported that Verizon has agreed to settle a wrongful death law suite for $7 million for the death of 49-year-old, Jose Vega, a Santa Barbara Housing Authority employee. The law suite arose out of a September 23, 2009 accident involving Mark Selander, a Verizon employee, who was driving a Verizon truck the wrong way on Highway 101 when he hit Vegas minivan head-on. Mr. Selander was suffering from a diabetic reaction when he got on the highway causing a six car accident. Verizon had knowledge of Selander’s “condition” but failed to do anything about it. He was also sleep deprived after working the graveyard shift when the accident occurred.
Applicable California law
Mr. Vega’s heirs, his wife Reyna, children and grandchildren will share in the settlement proceeds. Please see my prior Blog post on wrongful death law. Under a legal concept sometimes referred to as “respondeat superior” (Latin for “Let the superior answer”,) an employer is legally responsible for the actions of its employees. However, this rule only applies if the employee is acting within the course and scope of employment. In other words, the employer will generally be liable if the employee was doing his or her job, carrying out company business, or otherwise acting on the employer’s behalf when the incident took place. The purpose of this rule is fairly simple: To hold employers responsible for the costs of doing business, including the costs of employee carelessness or misconduct. If the injury caused by the employee is simply one of the risks of the business, the employer will have to bear the responsibility. In this case Verizon allowed Selander to continue to drive their trucks despite their knowledge of prior diabetic reaction incidents. Depending on the circumstances, Verizon could have been subject to punitive damages.