Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler March 14, 2016

What exactly is negligent hiring? According to Kent University, the legal foundation of negligent hiring is in a law called the respondeat superior doctrine. This law states that employers, under certain circumstances, are responsible for the actions of their employees. The issue with negligent hiring is that it may sometimes be more advantageous for the injured party to sue the employee directly instead of wasting time and money trying to prove that the employer is negligent.

What Are the Employer’s Responsibilities?

An employer’s responsibilities include doing full background checks on potential employees, not putting customers in harm’s way by hiring people incapable or unqualified to do their jobs, and avoiding the hiring of employees who have demonstrated an inability to perform the job in the past.

A court will also want to identify the circumstances that allow a situation to be considered negligent hiring. When an employee is performing their specific job duties or when they are doing something that is considered to be a reasonable attempt to advance their careers, then that is considered to be working on behalf of the company. For example, if John Smith felt that doubling up on taxi passengers and doubling revenue would help improve his position with the company, but adding more passengers caused an accident, then the company could be deemed negligent.

The most difficult part for a workplace injury lawyer is to prove that the company would approve of an employee going above and beyond the call of duty to advance in the company. One tactic a workplace injury attorney might use would be to look for other instances where past employees stepped outside of the boundaries of their job descriptions and were rewarded instead of punished. As you can imagine, finding these types of instances can be difficult.

The Vagueness of Negligent Hiring

In 2012, the Big Spring Assembly of God Church in Kentucky was sued by the family of a 13-year-old boy who was killed in a car accident. The boy was headed out to a camping retreat with an employee of the church and was allowed to drive the vehicle. The vehicle crashed, and the boy was killed. Despite the church denying that the event was sponsored by the church, a workplace injury lawyer sued the church on behalf of the estate of the boy for negligent hiring. The court awarded the boy’s estate $1 million, and the church appealed. The appeal is still pending as of 2016.

The issue with this case is that it mentions nothing about the church knowing anything of its employee’s past that would indicate a problem. The family has taken issue with the church trying to brush the case aside as not being tied to a church-sponsored event, and the family is also angry that it was not revealed that the boy was driving the car until after his funeral. But is this employee’s lack of supervision skills an example of negligent hiring? The court thought so, as the majority of its decision was based on what it saw as a flawed hiring system employed by the church.

As we can see, negligent hiring is a difficult type of case to prove or disprove. A good workplace injury attorney will need to collect plenty of the right kinds of evidence to show that an employee was acting on behalf of the company when they caused an accident or injury and that the company should have known that the employee was prone to such acts of indiscretion. Make sure that you get the right attorney for your negligent hiring case.

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