In California, people who are injured by workers who are acting within the scope and course of their employment at the time of their accidents may recover damages from the employers under a legal principle called respondeat superior. Under this principle, employers are liable for the negligent actions of their employees. However, an employer is not liable for the actions of its employees when they are not working. In Marez v. Lyft, Inc.
, Cal.Ct.App. Case No. A156761, the California Court of Appeal reviewed the dismissal of two complaints against Lyft in which the plaintiffs alleged that a Lyft driver’s accident happened while he was working and that Lyft should be liable for their injuries and losses.
In 2015, Jonathan Guarano started working as a driver for Lyft. While he initially drove his personal vehicle, he started driving a vehicle that he rented from Hertz under a program through Lyft called the express driver program. To rent a vehicle from Hertz to drive for Lyft under this program, a driver must choose a pre-approved vehicle and drive at least 20 hours per week. In exchange for driving a Hertz rental vehicle under this program, Lyft drivers receive several incentives. When he made enough money to cover the cost of the rental vehicle, Lyft paid for the rental by deducting it from his paychecks. When he did not make enough money, he paid for the cost out of his pocket. Guarano used the rental car for both personal and work use.