Charlotte, N.C. – Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP is pleased to announce that the firm successfully defended Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community against a claim that Deerfield “ratified” an employee’s alleged criminal conduct. John Beyer, Jessica Dixon, and Katherine Graham secured summary judgment for Deerfield at the trial court level and later prevailed on appeal.
The case involved an important concept for employer liability called ratification. Generally, employers are not liable in civil actions relating to their employees’ criminal conduct because such acts are considered to fall outside the scope of their employment. But plaintiffs can nevertheless prove liability by demonstrating that an employer ratified the employee’s criminal behavior after the fact.
An elderly resident at Deerfield alleged that a nursing assistant exposed himself to the resident in the course of providing care. Deerfield immediately suspended the employee, conducted an internal investigation, and reported the alleged assault to state regulatory authorities. The investigations concluded there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations.
After extensive discovery, the trial court granted Deerfield’s motion for summary judgment. The case proceeded to trial against Deerfield’s employee. A Buncombe County jury unanimously found Deerfield’s employee not to be liable for the claimed assault. On appeal, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of Deerfield, rejecting plaintiff’s contention that a failure to report the alleged assault to law enforcement authorities constituted ratification. The court noted Deerfield’s prompt response to the allegations and decision to move its employee to another area despite the fact that plaintiff’s claim could not be substantiated. Likewise, the Court of Appeals affirmed the unanimous jury verdict in favor of its employee.
“This is a great result for a client who did everything right when presented with a serious allegation of employee misconduct,” says John Beyer, leader of Parker Poe’s Professional Negligence and Product Liability Defense Team. “We thank Deerfield for placing its trust in our law firm, and I thank Jessica Dixon and Katherine Graham for their excellent work and dedication in this case.”
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