Taylor English Successfully Defends Employers Against Negligent Hiring and Supervision Claims

April 27, 2011

Atlanta – April 27, 2011 –In a tight economy when unemployment is high, creative plaintiffs try to find ways to blame employers for “Negligent Hiring and Supervision.”

Recently, Randy Gepp, an experienced employment lawyer at Atlanta law firm Taylor English Duma LLP, successfully defended Grady Memorial Hospital in two cases that involved the theory that, according to Mr. Gepp, “negligent supervision or negligent hiring tries to pin the liability for some kind of damage on a company based on the theory that it failed to exercise an appropriate level of care when it either hired an employee or in its supervision of that employee.”

In the first of the two cases, Brathwaite v. Fulton Dekalb Hospital Authority- filed in Fulton County Superior Court, the plaintiff alleged that she was terminated in violation of the Georgia Whistleblower Act and that the Hospital Authority was negligent in hiring and retaining her supervisor. The plaintiff reported allegedly improper acts committed by her supervisor and speculated that the supervisor might be involved in criminal activity at the Hospital Authority.

The court held that the plaintiff's report of past activity at a prior employer and possible future criminal and ethical violations by the supervisor was not protected by the Georgia Whistleblower Statute and granted the Hospital Authority’s motion for summary judgment on all claims.

On the claims for negligent hiring and retention, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Hospital Authority. Mr. Gepp reports "there was no evidence that the Hospital Authority knew or should have known of any alleged propensities of the plaintiff’s supervisor to commit acts that resulted in harm to the plaintiff. The Hospital Authority performed a background check based on all information available at the time. This is all the law requires."

The second of the two cases, Jane Does v. Fulton Dekalb Hospital Authority- litigated in federal court, the plaintiffs claimed that a drug counselor at the hospital had sexually assaulted patients, and several plaintiffs alleged various state law and federal claims against the Hospital Authority. The court dismissed all of the claims and the plaintiffs appealed to the 11th Circuit, which upheld the rulings.

"This case also demonstrates that an employer can only be liable for negligent hiring when it knew or should have known that the employee hired had a tendency to cause the harm allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs," Mr. Gepp said. "As long as the employer performs a background check that is reasonable under the circumstances, it should avoid liability."

Cases based on the theory of Negligent Hiring or Supervision usually stem from an injury suffered by an employee or customer as a result of an allegedly negligent or wrongful act by the defendant’s employee. Examples include a case where a nurse that the patient claims was unqualified injures that patient in a hospital. Students have also sued schools in situations where a teacher employed injured the student as a result of an action by the school. In these types of cases the theory is that the employer should be responsible for the injury because the employer was negligent in the hiring of the employee who caused the injury. Employers may avoid liability for these claims by conducting appropriate background checks.

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