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When is an employer liable for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision when the tortious act is outside the scope of employment?

by | Jul 11, 2024 | Firm News

The Missouri Court of Appeals recently held that for a company to be held liable for its employee’s conduct, when that conduct is not within the scope of employment, under a theory of negligent hiring, negligent retention, or negligent supervision, the company must have had some role in “connecting” the employee with the plaintiff. Thus, the company must bring the employee “into contact with” the plaintiff.

In Campbell v. Baxter International, Case No. ED112259 (Mo. App. E.D. June 25, 2024) a group of plaintiffs sued a company for negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision where one of the company’s employees had engaged in assault, sexual assault, battery, and more against them. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings and dismissed those claims for lack of causation.

The plaintiffs’ argument was that the company gave the employee the “tools and instrumentalities,” such as computers, phones, and cameras, which the employee ultimately used to commit the tortious conduct and that the company failed to stop the employee.

The Court of Appeals held that while negligent hiring, negligent retention, and negligent supervision do not require the underlying tortious conduct occur within the scope of employment, the employer must still play a “sufficient role” in bringing the employee into contact with the party who is injured. While the company gave the employee “equipment and resources as part of his employment,” that did not establish the company “played a role in bringing [the employee into contact with” the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs had not alleged that the company brought the employee “into contact with” them, so the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal.