Court Discusses Employer Liability for the Acts of an Employee in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a person that suffers harm due to someone else’s negligence can pursue damages from the negligent party in a civil lawsuit. Additionally, if the negligent party was working on behalf of another individual or entity, the company that employed the negligent party may be held liable as well. Recently, a Massachusetts appellate court explained when an employer might be held liable for an employee’s actions in a case in which the employee assaulted a customer.  If you suffered injuries due to the acts of an employee of a company, you should speak to a vigilant Massachusetts personal injury attorney to assess what parties may be liable for the harm.

Case History

Allegedly, the plaintiff was assaulted by an employee of the defendant. The employee had driven a rented truck to Massachusetts to move a customer for the defendant but was not working at the time of the attack. The plaintiff and her husband filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging claims of negligent hiring, supervision, and retention. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it should not be liable for the plaintiff’s harm because the harm was not a foreseeable consequence of the assailant’s employment. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Employer Liability for the Acts of an Employee

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff alleging negligence must provide evidence demonstrating that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff to act with reasonable care, but that the defendant breached the duty, and damage resulted in that was caused by the breach. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the defendant breached the duty to inquire into the assailant’s background prior to hiring the assailant. Further, a background check would have revealed that the assailant had an extensive criminal history, including multiple felonies. Additionally, the appellate court noted that the defendant violated its own policy in failing to conduct a background check.

While the appellate court recognized that the defendant breached the duty of care, it found that the defendant’s negligence was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The appellate court noted that while proximate cause was normally a question for a jury, in some instances, it could be decided as a matter of law. The appellate court explained that the concept of foreseeability defined both proximate causation and the limits of the duty to act with reasonable care. Thus, the appellate court found that, as a matter of law, the assailant’s acts were not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendant hiring the assailant, or of the defendant’s decision to allow the assailant to go to Massachusetts. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Dedicated Attorney

If you suffered injuries due to the negligent or intentional acts of a company’s employee, the company might owe you damages, and you should speak to an attorney. The dedicated Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan possess the skills and resources to help you seek any compensation you may be eligible to recover, and we will work tirelessly on your behalf. We can be contacted through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.