When Can Someone Be Found Liable for Negligent Hiring?

Running or managing a business has never been more challenging. Demanding customers expect quality products and services at competitive prices. To effectively provide value in a final product, the enterprise must develop expertise across numerous business disciplines, such as finance, production, management, and perhaps most important of all, human resources. After all, no business can be successful without the correct employees.

But a business has more than just poor performance at stake when hiring an employee – the business has an obligation to protect its customers and the public from employee dangers that it knew about, or should have known about. And when a business negligently violates its duty to others, it can be held accountable for injuries and damages caused by its negligence. In this article, we will discuss when someone can be found liable for negligent hiring.

What Is Negligent Hiring?

Negligent hiring is a common law cause of action which holds employers liable for injuries caused by the failure to exercise reasonable care when hiring employees. If an employer hires an employee that the employer knew, or should have known, is not suited for the employment, the employer can be held liable for injuries caused by the negligence. Similarly, an employer can be held liable for negligent hiring when an employee injures someone and the employer knew, or should have known, of an employee’s dangerous propensities. Employers can also be held liable for the closely related torts of negligent retention, negligent training, and negligent supervision. Below, we’ll first look at a hypothetical example that arguably constitutes negligent hiring, then review a real Oregon case that resulted in a multi-million-dollar verdict.

Consider a furniture company that needs to hire a delivery person to take products to the homes of customers. This job typically entails driving to the customer’s home and taking the furniture inside the home. Many customers allow the delivery to occur when no one is at home, either hiding a key or leaving a door unlocked. The furniture company hires a new employee, Morgan Smith. The second week on the job, a customer complains to the company that Mr. Smith stole electronic equipment while in the home. They have surveillance video proving the claim.

It turns out that the furniture company performed no background check. Moreover, Mr. Smith admitted in his employment application that he had two felony convictions for burglary, two felony convictions for theft, and six probation revocations. In fact, one conviction arose when he stole money inside a house while working for a moving company. Thus, in this situation, even though an intervening criminal act occurred, there is certainly a good argument that the employer was placed on notice that Mr. Smith would was not suited for the particular job for which he was hired, and that the company was negligent in hiring him and placing him back in a position where he was likely to harm the customer.

Broker Found Liable in Oregon Negligent Hiring Case

In Linhart v. Heyl Logistics, LLC, et al. (Civ. No. 10-31-00-PA), a case tried in the United States District Court in Oregon, a truck driver named Clarey was driving a truck on behalf of Washington Transportation when he started falling asleep at the wheel. Clarey caused a collision which killed Linhart, another truck driver, who was on the shoulder of the road inspecting his own truck. Clarey had methamphetamine in his system and was criminally prosecuted.

The children of Mr. Linhart filed a wrongful death action against numerous defendants, including Heyl Logistics, the company that brokered the load of water bottles that Clarey was transporting. The jury returned a verdict of $5.2 million against Clarey and Heyl Logistics. The plaintiff had argued that the broker negligently hired Washington Transportation because appropriate due diligence should have revealed that Washington Transportation had no insurance and that its operating authority had been revoked, in violation of transportation laws.

Call with Questions

Everyone owes a duty to society to act reasonably, and it’s important to hold accountable those who fail to do so. Otherwise, society will become far less safe. If you have been injured by the negligence of another and have questions about the law or how to proceed, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to answer them.


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