Is an Employer Responsible when an Employee Commits a Crime? GA Supreme Court Tosses $54 Million in Verdicts Citing Proximate Cause to Limit Corporate Liability – by J. Robb Cruser

Byron Perry stole an SUV from an Avis Rental Car lot where he worked and later crashed into Brianna Johnson and Adrienne Smith while trying to evade the police, according to the opinion. Johnson and Smith sued Avis (and others) and separate juries awarded Johnson $7 million and Smith $47 million– totaling $54 million.

No so fast, said the Georgia Supreme Court. As for the direct negligence claim against Avis, the Court concluded that even if “Avis was negligent in allowing the vehicle to be stolen from its lot after hours” it should have been dismissed because the injuries were “due to Perry’s intervening criminal conduct being the sole proximate cause.” As for the separate negligent hiring and retention claim, the Court concluded that Perry was not acting “under the color of employment” when he stole the car and was trying to elude the police when the crash and injuries happened. And with those findings, the Court wiped out $54 million in judgments and provided reasonable limits to corporate responsibility.

Johnson v. Avis Rent A Car System, LLC 311 Ga. 588 (2021)