How Negligent Supervision Works Under Texas Law.
If you’ve been hurt by someone while they were on the job, that employee–much less his employer–is not automatically required by law to pay you for your injuries. While many simply assume that employers are generally responsible for what their employees do, this isn’t necessarily so. Perhaps in days-gone-by, employers would step up and cover the costs their employees caused. But you must show that the employer was guilty of failing to live up to some standard, and then connect that failure to your injury.
At all phases of the hiring, training, and retaining of each employee, an employer must exercise what is called “reasonable care.” When employers fail to do this, Texas recognizes a cause of action called “negligent supervision,” and in this article, we examine how employers can be found liable for accidents and injuries to the general public by failing to adequately supervise their employees.
Proving that the employee who hurt you should have been better supervised requires proof the employer did something wrong.
The first thing to understand about negligent supervision is that, like all negligence cases, there is no exhaustive list of how an employer must supervise their employees. For example, there’s no requirement that a manager be on duty at all times, that employees be videotaped, or that every infraction of workplace policy is a “firing offense.”
Instead, courts allow juries to determine what reasonable behavior is or is not given a particular field’s characteristics and how the parties behaved. This means a jury must delve into what work is exactly being done, by who, where, and for whom. You can imagine that what a responsible manager should do on a regular basis in a pre-kindergarten facility looks starkly different from a foreman on a construction site. Further, what managers in just these two jobs would each vary a great deal from day to day.
To be sure, workplace rules and regulations established by governmental bodies plays into the analysis. For example, if a trucking company consistently ignores the fact that its drivers are over their federally-mandated hours of service caps, then that is evidence of failure to sufficiently supervise their drivers. Or, if a bar allows its employees to become intoxicated on the job, that violates Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission regulations. But every day in every workplace is unique, and therefore each requires a fresh look by a jury.
This is especially true in the ever-changing modern workplace. New safety devices, regulations, and procedures come out almost daily, and the employer must be judged by what he or she had available to them at the time of the incident. A generation ago, it might not have required a specialized degree or training to perform some on-the-job tasks, but as technology and scientific knowledge expanded, only those with the most up-to-date training should be allowed to, say, administer anesthesia or operate a laser-guided rock grinder. In the end, your attorney needs to find evidence that that
Second, negligent supervision generally involves carelessness by the employer when the employee is on the job. If an employee gives no basis to his employer to, say, lead the employer to believe that the employee has violent tendencies, then the employer will likely not be liable if an employee attacks a customer. Employers cannot follow their employees around all the time, especially when they are not working. Nonetheless, employers certainly cannot turn a blind eye when they notice something suspicious or come to learn that an employee is potentially dangerous to their customers. An employer could be found negligent in their supervision if they don’t investigate/ignore evidence of:
- employees drinking on the job, especially where dangerous implements are nearby
- allowing employees to continue to use broken or outdated equipment
- failing to dismiss employees with propensities for violent or sexually assaultive behavior
The number of potential failures is basically limitless. This is why a thorough lawyer will not simply assume that since you got hurt by someone while they were on the job, that person’s employer is liable. He or she will go interview other employees, subpoena company records of discipline and procedures, and research how juries have examined similar factual situations.
Your attorney needs to connect the employer’s failure to keep an eye out on his employee to your injury
As in all personal injury claims, simply proving someone did something incorrectly is not the end of the case. Instead, we have to show that the failure to supervise actually caused or contributed to your injury. The law doesn’t simply punish lax bosses; it compensates victims when a boss’s failure leads directly to their injury.
In the trucking context, the connection between the two often works like this: 1) the boss doesn’t care if his drivers get adequate sleep and encourages drivers to be behind the wheel too long; 2) a driver falls asleep at the wheel due to exhaustion; 3) the driver’s truck then swerves into oncoming traffic and kills a motorist. See the connection between the three events? Now replace event No. 2 with “a driver loses consciousness due to a stroke,” and you’ll see where every failure to properly supervise doesn’t lead to liability.
Connecting the dots between the bad behavior on the boss’s part and the actual injury isn’t simple. If you’ve been hurt by someone on the job, it’s important to talk with an experienced attorney who can find out exactly what happened, who was responsible, and whether the law allows for you to sue the employee’s company. Attorney Michael Grossman has fought employers big and small for 25 years to make sure that the injured don’t have to suffer on your own. Call (855) 326-0000 today for a free consult.
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