Negligent Hiring Cases - Employers Beware
It is important that employers understand two very important principles when developing a comprehensive criminal records search program. This includes the terms “due diligence” and “negligent hiring.” Due diligence refers to the duty of care an employer would take to hire individuals that would not pose a threat or safety risk to other employees and individuals. The term negligent hiring refers to the fact that an employer failed to know or did not try to know of an employee’s criminal or tortuous propensities.
The following cases are a small sample of employers that did not conduct due diligence screening and ended up paying millions of dollars in negligent hiring litigation settlement claims. Don't end up on this list and conduct comprehensive and due diligent screening to help protect your company against the unthinkable.
Lax Checks led Everglades Club in Palm Beach to Hire Illegal Worker
Palm Beach Daily News – December 20, 2008
Depositions in a rape lawsuit against the Everglades Club have shed light on some of the veiled practices of the exclusive club. The club has been sued by former employee Melissa Legare, who was attacked by an illegal, undocumented club employee.
One of those undocumented workers, Esdras Cardona, raped Legare in the pre-dawn hours of April 2, 2006, after breaking into her dormitory room at the club. Cardona, a dishwasher, was convicted of the rape the following year and is serving a 20-year sentence.
According to testimony from club President William Pannill and Human Resources Director Tami Hubbard, the club was notified in the two years prior to Legare's rape that numerous employees — including Cardona — had Social Security numbers that didn't match their names. Hubbard testified that Cardona's employment application was left blank except for his name, address and Social Security number, which turned out to be false. Hubbard testified that once a person works one season, human resources doesn't examine that person's file again in subsequent seasons, and thus did not notice the card was expired.
Two years before Cardona was hired, the club employed Jose Pedraza-Caban, who was living in employee housing when he was arrested on a warrant from Puerto Rico charging him with first-degree murder and a laundry list of other robbery charges and firearms violations. The civil case is scheduled for trial May 4, 2009.
$3.6 Million Verdict in Priest Trial
Times Argus – December 18, 2008
A jury ruled that Vermont's Catholic Church should pay nearly $3.6 million for negligence in hiring and supervising a pedophile priest. The jury awarded David Navari $192,500 in compensatory damages and $3.4 million in punitive damages for civil claims that the diocese failed to protect him from Paquette. In his lawsuit, Navari said the priest fondled him on two occasions in 1977 when he was an 11-year-old altar boy at Burlington's Christ the King Church.
The diocese says it held a comprehensive liability policy from 1972 to 1978. But the church can't find its copy of the policy — it's now suing the United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co. in hopes of settling the issue — while its former insurer argues it isn't liable for cases in which the holder is found negligent.
Paquette, now 80 and retired in Massachusetts, is one of several retired clergymen who have been dismissed by the diocese after abuse allegations but not stripped of their title as priest. Before the start of jury deliberations Tuesday, Navari's lawyers reiterated that church records showed the diocese had transferred Paquette to the plaintiff's Burlington parish without telling anyone it knew the priest had molested boys first in Massachusetts, then in Indiana and the Vermont cities of Rutland and Montpelier.
After his abuse, Navari grew angry, anxious and afraid, lost interest in religion and, in later years, binge-drank and suffered from insomnia and clinical depression, Evers said.
Casino Bus Driver Ordered Back to Prison for Parole Violation
Sacramento Bee – November 14, 2008
The driver of a Colusa casino-bound bus involved in a deadly October crash has been ordered back to prison for 12 months for a parole violation.
Parolee Quintin J. Watts of Stockton was at the wheel Oct. 5 when a gamblers' bus careened into a ditch near the town of Williams. Nine passengers were killed, and thrity-four others including Watts were injured. The crash happened on Watts' first day driving for Cobb's Coaches, a company associate said. The company owner, Daniel Cobb, was killed in the crash. Watts has not been criminally charged in connection with the crash.
Stewart Gardner, deputy parole commissioner, issued Watts a maximum term Thursday for a technical parole violation: Watts traveled more than 50 miles away from home without telling his parole officer. "If he would have stayed within 50 miles, this would never have occurred," Gardner said
Initially, CHP officials announced they had arrested Watts on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to Colusa County officials, however, lab blood tests on Watts showed no trace of alcohol or drugs.
Watts had a commercial driving license but did not have a state license to drive a passenger bus, Department of Motor Vehicles records show.
Jury Says Company Liable for Trucker’s Negligent Hiring
Virginia Lawyers Weekly – June 16, 2008
An Illinois jury awarded a $23.7 million judgment against freight broker C.H. Robinson Worldwide and other defendants for an interstate collision that killed two people and injured five others in April 2004. The driver and carrier for whom the driver worked admitted they were negligent and responsible for the damages caused by their actions. The driver was charged with driving on a suspended license and falsifying her log book.
In a pretrial decision in Jones v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., U.S. District Judge Glen E. Conrad said that a motor carrier broker could be sued for “negligent hiring of an independent contractor,” despite the broker’s efforts to insulate itself through contract language.
Because of conflicts over the import of certain safety warnings on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Web site and of testimony from Worldwide’s own expert, Conrad said the case could go to a jury. After the three-day liability phase of the trial, the jury returned a verdict against Worldwide.
Apartment Owner is Liable for Death
Burbank Leader - January 18, 2008
A civil jury at the Downtown Los Angeles Superior Court returned a $12-million verdict Friday against the owner and property manager of a Burbank apartment complex for the wrongful death of Sharon Santos, lawyers for Santos’ mother said Friday. Sharon Santos went missing in 2004. After a two-week search, her body was discovered in Chinatown stuffed in the trunk of her own car. She had been raped and murdered.
Edna Santos sued Scott Villa Apartments, L.P. and Francis Property Management Inc., the owners of her daughter’s apartment complex, for hiring a maintenance man who was a convicted felon and registered sex offender.
Santos’ attorney stated, “They hired him without doing a criminal background check,” he said.
Lawyers for the apartment complex owners maintained during the trial that a criminal background check would have been “a paperwork nightmare” and hoped to prove that Rodriguez was not responsible for killing Santos.
“Hopefully, this verdict will lead to the conviction of Rodriguez, who is currently serving a 12-year prison term for sexual battery, robbery and other charges, all related to the tenants and co-employees of the apartment complex,” the statement read.