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Defendant Employer Not Held Liable for "Model" Worker's Assault

Jiraud v. Barnes & Noble, Inc., 137 A.D.3d 501 (1st Dept. 2020), NYLJ – October 15, 2020

The First Department recently directed the dismissal of a Complaint wherein plaintiff pleaded that defendant was liable for its negligent supervision.

Defendant’s employee, a maintenance worker, allegedly attacked and injured plaintiff. The Court ruled that because defendant had “no knowledge of any violent propensities “on its employee’s part “it could not be held liable. (cites omitted)”. Indeed, the worker’s supervisor, who witnessed the incident, testified that until the altercation occurred, the maintenance worker was considered a model employee.

Plaintiff failed to raise an issue of act.

Moreover, the Court ruled that defendant “also established that it cannot be held liable for assault and battery by its employee under a theory of respondent superior, because the altercation with plaintiff cannot reasonably be construed as part of the employee’s duties as a maintenance worker or as an act in furtherance of defendant’s interest”. (citations omitted).

The decision is sound. If it held otherwise, the Court would have held employers liable for negligence due to an arbitrary act by a “model worker”, especially when the assault is beyond the worker’s typical understood duties.


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