When a police employee acts outside the scope of their employment for purely personal purposes the employer and its insurer will not be liable. A case from the Court of Appeals of Georgia, 2nd Division, decided on April 21st provides an example of the ultimate bad case.
Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency v. Godfrey, 2005 Ga. App. LEXIS 413 (GA. Ct. App. 2nd Dist. 2005), involved a police trainee named Carswell of the City of McIntyre Police Department. While attending the police academy, Carswell was authorized to drive a police vehicle to his training. On December 3, 2001, Carswell went into the police station to borrow a patrol car. Carswell told Officer Hasty, the only officer on duty, that Carswell’s brother needed to borrow Carswell’s truck and therefore Carswell needed to borrow a police car to drive into work in the morning.
After borrowing the patrol car, Carswell met up with a man named Howell. He and Howell had previously planned to rob Marvin Godfrey. When Godfrey left work, Carswell used the police car to pull Godfrey over. When Godfrey exited his vehicle, Howell shot him. Carswell then took and envelope of money from Godfrey and left him on the side of the road.
The Godfrey family filed a lawsuit against the McIntyre Police Department which is insured by the Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA). The family argued that since Carswell was authorized to use and did use a police car to stop Godfrey, the city should be liable. In analyzing the case, the court recognized that under state law, employers have liability where an employee, acting in the scope of their employment, causes injury. An employer is not liable where the “act is committed not in furtherance of the employer’s business, but rather for purely personal reasons disconnected from the authorized business” of the employer. The court noted that although Carswell was driving a police car, he was not on his work shift. He had borrowed the car for purposes of transportation to work the next day and not to perform any police function. As a trainee, Carswell had no police power and no authority to use the police emergency lights to stop Godfrey. The court concluded that Carswell stopped Godfrey for purely personal reasons and therefore the City was not liable for his actions.