Negligent Hiring and Negligent Supervision

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

In Idaho, employers have a duty to protect others from the foreseeable harmful conduct of its employees.  The two types of cases that are usually brought against an employer when an employee engages in intentionally harmful conduct to others are negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

In the negligent hiring area Idaho has few cases.  One worth discussing is Doe v. Garcia, et al., 131 Idaho 578 (1998).  In Doe, the employee worked for a hospital as a respiratory therapist.  However, the hospital, in hiring the employee, failed to request the employee’s personnel file from his previous employer.  In failing to obtain this personnel file, the hospital failed to learn that the employee had been fired from his previous job because he had sexually molested a patient at his previous job.  While working for the hospital, the employee admitted to a staff member the reason for his previous termination.  However, the hospital took no further action.  While working, the employee treated Doe, who was a minor and developed a friendship with him.  The employee was later discharged by the hospital for encouraging under-aged employees to consume alcohol.  After his termination, the employee sexually molested Doe.  Doe filed suit against the hospital alleging that it was negligent in hiring the employee.  The district court ruled in favor of the hospital.  Doe appealed.  The Idaho Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the district court for further proceedings stating that a genuine issue existed as to whether the hospital was liable and whether it should have foreseen that the employee would use his position within the hospital that would lead to the molestation of Doe.

Rausch v. Pocatello Lumber Company, Inc., 135 Idaho 80 (Ct. App. 2000), analyzes an employer’s liability for negligent supervision claims by third parties.  In Rausch, a carpet layer was injured when he went to the employer carpet store to pick up carpet for jobs he was working on.  While there, an employee of the carpet store jokingly pulled a chair out from the carpet layer who was about to sit down.  The carpet layer didn’t know the chair had been pulled away, fell and seriously injured his back.  The employee of the carpet store was known for his previous acts of “horseplay” involving the carpet layer who had complained of the employee’s behavior before the injury occurred.  The manager of the carpet store acknowledged having received these complaints and stated that he knew it was likely the employee would likely someday injure someone with his jokes.  The carpet layer sued the carpet store employer and the district court ruled in favor of the carpet store.  The carpet layer appealed and the ruling was upheld by the Idaho Supreme Court.  The Court found that if the prank or play is itself a part of the employee’s duties or could be viewed as a means, even if ill-advised, of advancing the employer’s interests, the act will be deemed within the scope of employment; but if the prank is a purely personal act for personal motives or whims and could in no way be said to be serving the employer, then the prank is outside the scope of employment.

The only other Idaho decision touching upon this issue is Claris v. Oregon Short Line R.R. Co., 56 Idaho 169, 51 P.2d 217 (1935). In Claris, the plaintiff was a machinist employed to grease the engine bushings for a railroad company.  As a practical joke, the plaintiff’s supervisor and a fellow employee loaded the plaintiff’s grease gun with water.  The supervisor handed the grease gun to the plaintiff and directed him to go ahead and use it.  The grease gun discharged water, grease, metal shavings and borings into the plaintiff’s face causing him to lose his left eye. The Idaho Supreme Court held that the railroad company could be held liable for the supervisor’s act, explaining:

“The true test in all cases by which it may be determined whether the negligent act causing the injury is chargeable to the master or is the act of a co-servant is, was the offending employee in the performance of the master’s duty in reference to the particular act causing the injury, an act done in the performance of a duty that the master owed his servant? If so, his negligence is that of the master, and liability follows.” Applying the test so adopted by this court, it is clear that in supplying the [employee] with the grease gun in question, and in informing [the employee] that the grease gun was ready and thereafter directing [the employee] to go ahead and use it, [the supervisor] was performing a duty which his master, the [employer], owed the [employee], and that [the supervisor] was guilty of an act of omission, imputable to [the employer], in the performance of that duty by failing to supply the [employee] with a safe tool with which to grease the bushing.

If you have questions about employment law, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Employment Law attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at  We will answer your Idaho Employment Law questions and will help you solve your Idaho Employment Law problems.


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