The Supreme Court of Texas reached an interesting decision recently that affects laws concerning drunk drivers in the state. On Aug. 26, it held that an employer whose workers borrowed each other's vehicles did not have any liability for the fatal car crash one worker caused when he was driving drunk.

The holding overturns a First District appeals court decision that held that G & H Towing, a tugboat company, failed to deny vicarious liability in its motion for summary judgment.

(About the legalese: vicarious liability refers to the responsibility that a supervisory party, like an employer, has for the actionable conduct of a subordinate party, like an employee, based on the relationship between the two parties. In summary judgment, one party is asking the court to recognize that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the requesting party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law - basically, the party is telling the court there is nothing here to decide.)

In the incident that led to this decision, two tugboat workers would share their cars with one another because the boat on which they worked did not operate on a regular schedule and the trips did not end where they began. Once, one man took the other man's car to a bar where he got drunk and got into a car crash that killed two people. The surviving family members sued the man's employer, alleging the employer had a responsibility to inquire into its employees' competence as drivers.

In effect, the Texas Supreme Court said the plaintiff had failed to make a compelling argument as to why the employer should be responsible for the drunk-driving crash and that the law as it stands now provides no answer, either.

Source: The Southeast Texas Record, "Car owner not liable for borrower's drunk driving crash, Texas SC rules," Steve Korris, Sept. 5, 2011.