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Jay Leno is having fun re-running the viral video of the distracted young woman walking through a mall and falling into a pool. The irony

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Rizwana Rahman, Wife of State Worker, Sues State for His State-Car Accident . . . and Wins

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Jay Leno is having fun re-running the viral video of the distracted young woman walking through a mall and falling into a pool. The irony is that the woman may now sue for having humiliated herself. The incident comes about the same time as a ruling in an ironic case here: An Olympia woman sued the state for injuries suffered while riding in a state vehicle being driven by her husband. At first she also sued her husband. But don't laugh. She won.

Mohammad Shahidur Rahman, a state worker, and his wife Rizwana Rahman were driving from Olympia to Spokane when he crashed. The trial court dismissed her suit seeking compensation from the state on the grounds that her husband wasn't authorized to have his wife ride along, acting outside the scope of his employment.

According to court records, Mohammad was employed as an intern with the state Department of Ecology in 2005, working in the dam safety office. He was heading to Spokane to meet a department hydrologist to inspect a construction site.

While driving near Tiger Mountain Summit on State Route 18, Mohammad failed to negotiate a curve. The car left the roadway, struck a tree, and rolled several times. Rizwana was badly injured.

Though Mohammad didn't tell the state he was taking her along, and she wasn't allowed anyway, Rizwana sought unspecified damages for negligence by the state and the state driver--her husband. That created other legal problems, so the complaint was later amended to name only the state.

Though her husband, not the state's car, was obviously the cause, she argued the state was "vicariously liable" for his negligence in causing the accident--he was driving their car, after all. The state's defense was that it wasn't liable for the injuries of an unauthorized passenger.

The Thurston County trial court agreed with the state, and that seemed that.

But the state Court of Appeals reversed, "Because Mohammad was clearly engaged in his employer's business when his negligence caused injury to Rizwana." And last week the state Supreme Court confirmed that "vicarious liability" applied in such cases.

She can indeed sue the state for injuries in an accident caused by her husband in a car she wasn't supposed to be riding in. It is a precedent, the court said, that "we have previously rejected the notion that an employee's violation of a workplace rule renders the employee's conduct outside the scope of employment."

The Supremes ordered the trial court to enter a partial summary judgment in favor of Rizwana Rahman and to proceed further.

The pool splash:

 
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