BEAUMONT – An employer is not on the hook for an employee’s automobile accident, so long as the accident occurred off duty and off premises, according to a recent Ninth Court of Appeals finding.

In July 2014, Yazmin Barajas filed suit against OCI Beaumont.

A month earlier, Ikechukwu Obodo, an OCI mechanical engineer, hit Barajas with his truck while she was walking through a parking lot near the company’s plant.

Both individuals where on there way to OCI’s facility. Barajas was working as an insulator for Safeway Company at the time.

As the litigation unfolded, OCI moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not own or operate the parking lot where Barajas’s injury occurred, that it did not own the vehicle involved in the collision, and that Obodo was not in the course and scope of his employment when the incident occurred.

Obodo also testified that he had not yet started his day for OCI and that he was in the process of completing his morning commute to work when he struck Barajas.

However, while OCI did not own the parking lot, the evidence does show the company had directed Obodo to park there.

A hearing on the matter was held in October 2016. The trial court, relying on the access doctrine, denied OCI’s motion, prompting the appeal.

On May 18, justices found OCI’s summary judgment evidence conclusively established that Obodo was driving his personal vehicle while on his way to work and had nothing to do with the risks associated with his job as a mechanical engineer.

“We sustain OCI’s issue, and hold the trial court erred by failing to grant OCI’s motion for summary judgment on Barajas’s claim seeking to hold OCI vicariously liable for Obodo’s allegedly negligent operation of his truck,” states the Ninth Court’s opinion.

“We reverse the trial court’s order denying OCI’s motion as to Barajas’s vicarious liability claim, and we remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.”

Barajas is represented by Cody Dishon, attorney for the Ferguson Law Firm in Beaumont.

Attorneys Ross Holiday Jones  and Russell W. Heald represent OCI.

Appeals case No. 09-16-00406-CV

Trial court case No. A-195925

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The Ferguson Law Firm LLP
350 Pine Street
Beaumont, TX - 77701

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