Sharrock v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 03-14-2012
  • Case #: 10-16425
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Goodwin for the Court, Circuit Judges Trott and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

A naval officer is not acting within the line of duty when traveling between work and a recreational activity encouraged by the Navy. As such, respondeat superior does not apply in this situation.

The Sharrocks were injured on a naval base in Guam in an automobile accident caused by the negligence of naval officer McCoy. McCoy was traveling to a basketball practice encouraged by Navy. In determining whether McCoy was functioning within the scope of his employment for the purpose of respondeat superior, the Court determined that he was not acting within “the line of duty,” as the Federal Tort Claim Act requires. The Court applied California law on this issue, given the similarity between the California and Guam codes. While California law tends to construe respondeat superior broadly, it has not found liability in similar situations to the one in this case. The Court looked to determine whether the environment created by the Navy made this incident reasonably foreseeable. Despite the Navy’s support of the basketball program, it was not reasonably foreseeable that this program would result in this accident. The Sharrocks argued that McCoy’s travel to the basketball practice should be considered under the special errand exception to the “going and coming rule.” But finding liability for this incident would impermissibly broaden the exception. The Court found that McCoy was not acting in the line of duty while travelling to the practice. AFFIRMED.

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