Pryor et al. v. Fitness International, LLC (Jan. 3, 2019, B287329) 2019 WL 92775

An employee of GMSR’s client, a health club, took heroin during his work-shift.  Finding him no longer fit to perform his job, the health club’s manager ordered him to leave the premises.  The intoxicated employee then drove away from the club striking and mortally injuring a bicyclist a short distance away.  The bicyclist’s widow sued the club, accusing it of being responsible for her husband’s death.  Plaintiff claimed that by ordering the employee to leave before his shift normally would have ended, the club started the chain of events that caused the fatality.

The Court of Appeal affirmed dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint on demurrer.  It held that plaintiff failed to allege either vicarious or direct negligence liability.

The employee’s drug use was a purely personal endeavor of no benefit to the employer and was not part of the normal job duties.  Respondeat superior, thus, did not apply.  Terminating the employee’s shift early did not create the sort of special benefit or errand necessary for vicarious liability.  Even though the plaintiff “plausibly allege[d] that workplace drug abuse is generally foreseeable,” that is not enough to create a duty owed to the public at large to prevent the consequences of such abuse.  Countervailing policy considerations disfavor imposing “an unworkably broad and inefficient duty” on employers to prevent an employee from causing harm to members of the general public where the employee has chosen to drive intoxicated after his work-shift is over.

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