Taylor v. Roseville Toyota, Inc., 138 Cal. App. 4th 994 (2006)

Derrick Lewis, a car detailer employed by Roseville Toyota, was driving a car owned by the dealership and was on a personal errand during his lunch break when he rear-ended another car that was stopped at a stoplight. The jury concluded that although Lewis was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, Roseville had given Lewis permission, by words or conduct, to use the car before the accident. The evidence of permissive use was that Lewis was given the key to the car by the dealership’s key shack attendant, who told Lewis he could use the car during his lunch break “as long as he brought it back.” In affirming the judgment against Roseville, the Court of Appeal acknowledged there was no evidence the key shack attendant had actual authority to ignore the dealership’s “unwritten policy” against personal use and give Lewis the keys, but there was sufficient evidence the attendant had ostensible authority to do so since the dealership did not expressly prohibit the personal use of its vehicles in the employee handbook and because Roseville had failed to better supervise the use of the vehicles. Cf. Thomas v. Duggins Constr. Co.¸ 139 Cal. App. 4th 1105 (2006) (company whose employees made intentional misrepresentations about equipment was not entitled to reduction of non-economic damages under Fair Responsibility Act of 1986 (Proposition 51)).