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When the Company Denies Responsibility for Its Driver

In lawsuits by injured motorists or passengers against companies who employ commercial drivers, issues occasionally arise from the companies contending they are not responsible for the accident due to their driver not having permission or authorization to drive their vehicle. An Alabama appeals court decision on February 9 illustrates some of the important law on this question. The law provides for an “administrative presumption” that evidence of someone driving a company vehicle indicates that person is doing so within the scope of his authority for that company; however, the company is permitted to rebut the presumption if it can show proof that there was no such permission or authorization. In this Alabama case, testimony showed the driver said at the scene that he was “on his way to get his boss.” The company owner, however, denied that this driver (who had no driver’s license) had permission to use the truck. He claimed that he had reported to the investigating police officer that the truck had been taken without permission or had been stolen. This, however, was contradicted by the investigating police officer’s testimony. The court ruled that the case was due to be decided by a jury rather than being dismissed.