Q: In my store, there are several vending machines. The other day, someone appeared who I knew to be a truck driver’s helper for one of the vending companies. When he attempted to service the company’s machine, I questioned his authority to do so. The helper’s response was to strike me several times with a metal bar. The company says that my assailant had stolen the keys to the machine and has validated my hunch that he never was authorized to service it. I have learned that this was not the helper’s first crime. Twenty five years ago, he was convicted of some kind of felony, out of state. A few years ago, he was arrested here, on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. Of course, he is broke. But his company has what you attorneys call ‘deep pockets’. How’s my case against the company?
A: The company can be held liable vicariously only if the assault was somehow condoned, instigated or authorized by it. From what you tell me, there is no evidence to support this theory. In general, it is very difficult to prove that a violent attack, bad for business as well as for the victim, was somehow condoned by the employer. With regard to negligent hiring and supervision, our courts generally have held that an employer is under no particular duty to inquire as to whether a hiring prospect has been convicted of crimes in the past. In addition, even if the company had checked the helper’s background, hiring him despite it is not necessarily negligence. Your case with regard to negligent supervision may well turn out to be stronger. Perhaps interviews with other customers and other employers, and a look at the personnel file, will show that this is far from the first time that the helper has flashed his true colors in an ongoing arena. The company can be held directly liable if it knew or should have known of his violent propensities.
By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial
The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.
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