North Carolina companies should know that they could be held responsible for the actions of an employee if they had prior knowledge of the employee’s abusive behavior. In April 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit decided that a lawsuit against a home improvement chain alleging its negligence in the murder of a pregnant employee by a supervisor will be sent back to the lower court to be heard.
The ruling reverses the district court’s dismissal, which was made on the basis that Home Depot could not have foreseen that the intimidating and verbally abusive behavior of the supervisor would have led to the 2012 murder of the employee. The appellate court asserted that the company permitted the murderer to maintain a supervisory role over the employee even after it knew that he had a checkered history towards female subordinates.
The company had asserted that because the murders of the employee and her unborn child did not occur on its premises and the supervisor did not use store property to commit the crime, the company had no liability under Illinois law. However, the 7th Circuit determined that the company gave the murderer supervisory authority, particularly the ability to reduce the employee’s working hours or fire her, and it was the duty of the company to regulate the supervisor’s behavior. The fact that he abused his supervisory authority to compel the woman to accompany him on a trip during which she was killed could be a basis for liability on the part of the company.
An attorney should be consulted if a loved one is killed as a result of the negligent actions of another party. In some cases, the attorney might find it advisable to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf that would seek compensation for their losses.