In a highly publicized incident during the 2016 presidential election, a Trump campaign staff worker claimed that the North Carolina campaign director threatened him with a pistol on the way to a campaign event. The worker subsequently filed suit against the Trump campaign, alleging negligent retention as well as vicarious liability for the director’s actions. On January 2, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed a grant of summary judgment for the campaign.
In Bordini v. Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., the court concluded the director was an independent contractor and not an employee, and therefore the campaign was not vicariously liable for his conduct. In terms of the negligent retention claim, the Court of Appeals said that the campaign did not have advance notice of the director’s alleged previous reckless behavior with firearms. The mere fact that he carried a pistol did not place the campaign on notice of possible misuse. Knowledge of this behavior by low-level employees could not be attributed to the campaign.
This decision tracks established North Carolina law with respect to employers’ liability for assaults and similar behavior by employees and contractors associated with the business. This decision does not affect the plaintiff’s direct claims against the director.