Although employers are not liable for every injury caused by an employee, the doctrine of respondeat superior does make an employer liable for certain injuries caused by an employee acting within the scope of his or her employment. As to be expected, however, there are certain exceptions to application of respondeat superior doctrine that will shield an employer from liability even when the employee is negligent and acting within the scope of employment. Among these various exceptions is the borrowed-servant rule, which insulates an employer from liability when the employer lends the employee to another, and the employee commits a negligent act while engaged in work for the other party. In a recent decision, Garden City v. Herrera , the Georgia Court of Appeals examined the applicability of the borrowed-servant rule to a motor vehicle accident involving a police officer.
The motor vehicle collision at issue in this case occurred in July 2010, when a car being driven by a police officer employed by the Garden City Police Department collided with a car being driven by another. The officer had been employed with the city since 2007 and since the nascent period of his employment was part of a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force. The task force was created in 1994, when Chatham County entered into agreements with various municipal law enforcement agencies. Per these agreements, local law enforcement agencies assigned officers to a 27-month tour with the countywide Counter Narcotics Team, which was run by a commanding officer employed by the county. At the time of the accident, the officer was driving from the location of one task force operation to another, under the orders of a supervising task force officer. Following the accident, a lawsuit was brought on behalf of the seriously injured driver against Garden City, Chatham County, and several other defendants. Following the close of discovery, Garden City moved for summary judgment, arguing that it could not be held liable because the accident occurred when the employee was a borrowed-servant of the county. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, finding that there was an issue of material fact concerning whether the county retained exclusive authority to fire the officer. If the county did not retain such authority, the borrowed-servant doctrine would not apply.