This was originally posted on the SGR Blog.
Was Domino’s Liable For Officer’s Injury in Scuffle?
On June 9, 2016, Kevin R. Allum was employed by Domino’s Pizza, LLC and was delivering pizza in Brooklyn. At about 1:00 a.m., New York City Police Department Officer Benjamin Maldonado pulled over Allum’s vehicle and cited him for a defective headlight. During the course of the traffic stop, Allum allegedly kicked his feet, flailed his arms, and resisted arrest. Maldonado forcibly removed Allum from the vehicle and both Maldonado and Allum fell to the ground.
Maldonado sued Alum and Domino’s to recover damages for personal injuries. Domino’s subsequently moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, contending that Allum was acting outside the scope of his employment at the time of the incident, and that Domino’s did not know, or have reason to know, that Allum would engage in a struggle with a law enforcement officer. Maldonado opposed the motion, contending that there were issues of fact regarding whether Allum was acting outside the scope of his employment at the time of the incident. The Supreme Court denied the motion. Domino’s appealed.
The doctrine of respondeat superior renders an employer vicariously liable for a tort committed by his or her employee within the scope of employment. An employee’s actions fall within the scope of employment where the purpose in performing such actions is to further the employer’s interest or to carry out duties incumbent upon the employee in furthering the employer’s business. An action may also be considered to be within the scope of employment when performed while the employee is engaged generally in the business of the employer or if the act may be reasonably said to be necessary or incidental to such employment. Conversely, where an employee’s actions are taken for wholly personal reasons, which are not job related, his or her conduct cannot be said to fall within the scope of employment. In cases involving a use of force, whether an employee is acting within the scope of employment requires consideration of whether the employee was authorized to use force to effectuate the goals and duties of the employment.
The appeals court found that Domino’s established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the cause of action alleging vicarious liability by demonstrating that Allum’s allegedly tortious conduct was not within the scope of his employment. Specifically, Domino’s demonstrated that the violent conduct displayed by Allum during the course of receiving a ticket for a defective headlight was not reasonably foreseeable or incidental to the furtherance of Domino’s business interests and that Allum was not authorized to use force to effectuate the goals and duties of his employment. In opposition, Maldonado failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether Allum was acting within the scope of his employment when he kicked his feet, flailed his arms, and resisted arrest.
Similarly, Domino’s demonstrated its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the cause of action to recover damages for negligent hiring and negligent supervision. In that regard, Domino’s demonstrated that it did not have knowledge or notice of Allum’s propensity for the violent conduct that resulted in Maldonado’s injury. Moreover, there was no common-law duty to institute specific procedures for hiring employees unless the employer knew of facts that would lead a reasonably prudent person to investigate the prospective employee. In opposition, Maldonado failed to raise a triable issue of fact.
Finally, Domino’s demonstrated its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the cause of action pursuant to the General Municipal Law provision creating a cause of action for police officers under certain circumstances (absent here). Domino’s demonstrated that it was not vicariously liable for Allum’s allegedly criminal conduct. In opposition, Maldonado failed to raise a triable issue of fact.
Maldonado’s complaint against Domino’s was dismissed.