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Plaintiff’s Complaint Partially Dismissed Due To Off-Target Claims (PA)

November 20, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In a recent negligence case, <em><a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Beatrice-Hena-v.-Target-Corporation.pdf">Beatrice Hena v. Target Corporation</a>, </em>heard in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Plaintiff alleged she slipped and fell on a slippery and dangerous wet floor while shopping at a Target store in Philadelphia, that Target knew or should have known about the allegedly dangerous condition and did not exercise reasonable care in remedying the condition or warning her of it.  The complaint included causes of action for negligent hiring, selection and retention, and vicarious liability against Target. Target moved to dismiss these claims and the Court ultimately ruled in its favor, leaving only a premises liability cause of action.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Pennsylvania courts have recognized that negligent supervision claims have gone beyond <em>respondeat superior</em> and established it does not matter whether an employee was acting within or outside of the scope of employment when the alleged incident occurred. Under Restatement § 213, a basic negligence claim must be established. An employer may be held liable for negligence if the employer knew or should have known that the employee behaved in a dangerous manner and the behavior posed a risk to others. The harm caused by the employee must be foreseeable to the employer. In applying this doctrine, the Court found Hena failed to establish that Target should have been aware of dangerous or incompetent behaviors by its employees.  Hena did not identify any specific employees in her complaint nor assert factual allegations that Target knew or should have known about employees’ dangerous or incompetent acts.  Hena’s allegation rather resembled the <em>res ipsa loquitur</em> theory that Target is presumed to have acted negligently in hiring merely by presence of the dangerous conditions.  The Court found Hena’s claim “misses the target,” and thus, failed to state a valid claim for negligent hiring, selection, retention or supervision.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Hena’s claim for vicarious liability (whereby employers are held liable when an employee injures a third party while acting in furtherance of the employer’s business) was likewise dismissed because she again failed to identify any specific Target employee or any specific actions by a Target employee that indicated negligent, careless, or incompetent behavior that could be attributed to Target.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The Court ultimately held Hena tried to overinflate a basic premises liability case to a matter about negligent hiring and employer responsibility.  Since Hena could not meet her burden of proof for these expansive claims, the Court granted Target’s motion to dismiss these two counts, leaving her only with the premises liability claim.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Special thanks to Gabrielle Outlaw for her contribution to this article.  If you have any questions, kindly contact <a href="mailto:tbracken@wcmlaw.com">Thomas Bracken</a>.</p>

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