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Skeletons in the Closet

CRST, INC. Superior Court

(2017) 11 Cal. App. 5th 1255

Hiring quality employees can be challenging; despite a company’s best efforts, bad apples slip into the system. And on occasion, one of those employees can have an at-fault accident which results in litigation against the employee for negligence, as well as, against the company for negligent hiring, entrustment or supervision.

In the past, the remedy was simple.  If an employer stipulates to vicarious liability for the acts of the employee, the direct causes of action against the employer vanish. Case closed and problem solved. All those skeletons in the closet of the at-fault employee became irrelevant and largely inadmissible at the time of trial, along with the evidence regarding the alleged negligent hiring, training or supervision of that employee.

That has now changed. Pursuant to the recent case of CRST, Inc. v. Superior Court, when an employer gets sued for negligent hiring or negligent entrustment, stipulating to vicarious liability is no longer a bar to an employer being hit with punitive damages.

Cue the skeletons. Not only is all the bad behavior of the at-fault employee taken into account, but the employer’s alleged negligent hiring, training or supervision now have relevance.  Now the finger pointing begins.  The employee says that he or she was not trained or supervised, and the employer says that it had no idea that the employee had a checkered past.

What does this mean?

  • Employee’s bad facts (drinking, criminal record, falling asleep at the wheel, etc.) now have relevance and are admissible at trial, as do the hiring, training and supervision methods of the employer;
  • More conflicts of interest will arise between the employee and employer in discovery and at trial.

To discuss the implications of this decision or learn more information on how our firm can represent you in a similar case, please contact John O’Meara at (818) 712-9800, or send an email to jomeara@bremerwhyte.com.

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