CENTURION INDUSTRIES, INC.
NAVILLE- SAEGER et al. CENTURION INDUSTRIES, INC.
BARNES, P. J., MERCIER and BROWN, JJ.
on unpaid leave from work, Jeremy Carter drove from a work
site in Arabi, Louisiana to Valdosta, Georgia. As Carter was
driving in Lowndes County, Georgia, he caused a motor vehicle
collision when he hit a vehicle containing Kyle Naville and
Logan Shelly. Tragically, both Naville and Shelly died as a
result of the collision. The parents of Naville brought an
action against Centurion Industries, Inc. (Carter's
employer) and Carter, and the mother of Shelly filed a
separate action against Carter and Centurion.
filed motions for summary judgment in both lawsuits, arguing
that Carter was not acting in the course and scope of his
employment when the collision occurred, and therefore
Centurion could not be held liable under theories of
respondeat superior or negligent hiring and retention. The
trial court denied Centurion's motions in the two cases
in a single order. We granted Centurion's applications
for interlocutory appeals to review the trial court's order,
and for the following reasons, we reverse.
appeal from a trial court's grant [or denial] of summary
judgment, our review of the record is de novo, and we
construe the facts and all inferences drawn from them in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
Farzaneh v. Merit Constr., 309 Ga.App. 637 (710
S.E.2d 839) (2011) (citation omitted).
2015, Carter lived in Valdosta and worked as a millwright for
A-Lert Construction Services, a division of Centurion, out of
its Valdosta, Georgia office.Amongst other services, Centurion
performed "shutdown work," where a factory would
shut down for multiple weeks and Centurion would perform
maintenance work at the factory. Carter was assigned to a
"road crew," where he and other Centurion employees
traveled to out-of-town job sites.
2014, Centurion entered into a contract to perform
construction work at a refinery in Arabi, Louisiana. Carter
was assigned to work at the Arabi job site, along with four
other Valdosta-based Centurion employees and a supervisor. He
received hourly pay, mileage reimbursement for his travel to
the Arabi job site from Centurion's office in Valdosta
and a per diem payment for each day he worked at the Arabi
job site. Due to the distance between the Arabi job site and
Centurion's Valdosta office, the Centurion employees
secured temporary housing near the job site and were expected
to remain near the job site for the duration of the
to arriving in Arabi, Carter requested and received
permission to take unpaid leave from work for February 25,
2015 through February 27, 2015. Carter wrote on the request
form that he needed the leave for "[c]ourt."
Centurion did not request that Carter perform any tasks
during the leave period.
drove from Valdosta to Arabi in his own vehicle and began
working at the site on February 2, 2015. Some of the other
Centurion employees carpooled to the Arabi job site. At the
time, Carter did not have a valid driver's license, and
due to requirements issued by the refinery he was unable to
drive a vehicle onto the refinery property in Arabi. As a
result, he rode to the site with another Centurion employee.
he was in Arabi, Carter told his field supervisor that he had
to take leave to return to Valdosta "because of a DUI
refusal in North Carolina." Carter did not receive any
compensation, including per diem, travel allowances, or
mileage reimbursement, while he was on leave. On February 25,
2015, the first day of Carter's unpaid leave, Carter
drove his personal vehicle from Arabi to Valdosta, where he
attempted to pass a school bus and hit the oncoming vehicle
in which Naville and Shelly rode. After the collision,
Carter's blood tested positive for alcohol content of
.187 grams per 100 milliliters. Centurion did not terminate
Carter's employment because he "hadn't been to
trial," but it removed him from the road team and
required him to work out of the Valdosta office. Carter
eventually pled guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide in
connection with the collision.
appeals the trial court's denial of its motions summary
judgment, arguing that Carter was not acting within the scope
of his employment at the time of the collision, and therefore
the Plaintiffs' respondeat superior claims fails; and
that the trial court erred by denying its motions on the
Plaintiffs' negligent hiring and retention claims because
Carter's trip to Valdosta was wholly unrelated to his
Every master shall be liable for torts committed by "his
servant by his command or in the prosecution and within the
scope of his business, whether the same are committed by
negligence or voluntarily." OCGA § 51-2-2.
"When a servant causes an injury to another, the test to
determine if the master is liable is whether or not the
servant was at the time of the injury acting within the scope
of his employment and on the business of the master."
Hicks v. Heard, 286 Ga. 864, 865 (692 S.E.2d 360)
(2010) (citation omitted). "The test is not that the act
of the servant was done during the existence of the
employment, but whether the servant was at that time serving
the master." Hargett's Telephone Contractors v.
McKeehan, 228 Ga.App. 168, 169 (491 S.E.2d 391) (1997)
(citation, emphasis and punctuation omitted).
While a jury frequently must resolve whether an employee
acted in furtherance of his master's business and within
the scope of his employment at the time an injury was
inflicted, the evidence in some cases is so plain and
undisputable that the court may resolve a respondeat superior
claim as a matter of law.
Farzaneh, supra at 639 (citation omitted).
"[S]ummary judgment for the master is appropriate when
the evidence shows that the servant was not engaged in
furtherance of his master's business but was on a private
enterprise of his own." Lucas v.Beckman
Coulter, Inc., 348 Ga.App. 505, 508 (2) (823 ...