Negligence Action Against an Employee and a Negligent Supervision Action Against the Employer are Mutually Exclusive

4
Dec

Negligence Action Against an Employee and a Negligent Supervision Action Against the Employer are Mutually Exclusive

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A plaintiff cannot simultaneously pursue a negligence cause of action against an employee and a direct negligent training and supervision cause of action against the employer, if the employee was in the course and scope of employment, according to a Louisiana federal district court.

The plaintiff was injured when the driver of a Greyhound bus travelling from Shreveport to Dallas collided into the plaintiff’s vehicle before entering an on-ramp.  The plaintiff filed suit alleging that the cause of the collision and her injuries resulted from negligent supervision, teaching, and training by Greyhound and negligent driving by the driver.  Greyhound filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff could not pursue a separate and independent cause of action against it for negligent supervision and training while also suing the driver for negligent driving, because Greyhound stipulated that the driver was in the course and scope of his employment when he caused the accident.

U.S. District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr., of the Shreveport division of the Western District, found no binding precedent, and made an “Erie guess” as to the Louisiana courts’ resolution of the issue before him.  The district court noted that the Louisiana Supreme Court, in Roberts v. Benoit, 605 So. 2d 1032 (La. 1991), aff’d on rehearing, 605 So. 2d 1050 (La. 1992), recognized the tort of negligent hiring, and “characterized direct negligence claims against employers and tort claims against employees for which the employer may be liable as ‘separate and independent.’”  However, Judge Hicks noted that “course and scope” was at issue in Roberts, thereby allowing both causes of action to proceed simultaneously to the jury. Notably, in the subject case, the employer, Greyhound, stipulated to course and scope.  Therefore, Judge Hicks had to determine whether the actions could proceed at the same time.  The scant precedent he found suggested that a negligent hiring or entrustment claim was subsumed in a direct negligence claim against the employee.

Synthesizing the available precedent, Judge Hicks discerned the following rules:

“A plaintiff may simultaneously maintain independent causes of action in tort against both an employee and an employer for the same incident when:

“(1) the plaintiff alleges both

(a) an intentional tort by the employee and

(b) negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision by the employer; or

“(2) the plaintiff alleges both

(a) negligence by the employee and

(b) negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision by the employer; and

(c) the employer does not stipulate that the employee acted in the course and scope of employment.

“Conversely, a plaintiff may not simultaneously maintain independent causes of action in tort against both an employee and an employer for the same incident when the plaintiff alleges both

(a) negligence by the employee and

(b) negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision by the employer; and

(c) the employer stipulates that the employee acted in the course and scope of employment.”

Proceeding from these rules, Judge Hicks determined that he could dismiss the negligent training cause of action against Greyhound.  Judge Hicks reasoned that, if the jury determines that driver was negligent, then Greyhound is vicariously liable for his actions.  In other words, the driver’s negligence subsumes any negligence of Greyhound in training or supervision.  Further, Judge Hicks said, if the driver “was not negligent, then no amount of negligence on the part of Greyhound in training and supervising him could have been the cause-in-fact or legal cause of the collision and Dennis’ injuries.”

Negligent hiring, supervision and training are allegations raised in trucking and many other cases.  Judge Hicks’ ruling, if it is accepted by other courts, helps limit the ever-expanding assault on employers and independent contractors.

Dennis v. Collins, No. 15-2410 (W.D. La. 11/9/16)

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