Case for Negligent Hiring Can Proceed Against Brokerage Firm

The estate of Linda Stein was allowed by Judge Lucy Billings of the Supreme Court of the State of New York to proceed with a claim of negligent hiring against the brokerage firm and employment agency who hired the person convicted of murdering Ms. Stein and who had worked as Ms. Stein's personal assistant. The estate had claimed that Douglas Elliman LLC, the brokerage firm, and a separate employment agency, Axion LLC, provided Nativia Lowery employment as a personal assistant to Ms. Stein even though Ms. Lowery had a "history of criminal behavior, theft, fraud, embezzlement" and tax evasion. Wells v. Douglas Elliman LLC, (Supreme Court NY County 115373/09). Douglas Elliman had sought to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that the estate did not state a valid claim and that the defendants could not be held liable for negligence in hiring Ms. Lowery. Judge Billings disagreed and stated that an "employer owes a duty to investigate an employee's background only if defendant knows facts that would lead a reasonably prudent employer to investigate" a violent propensity by the employee and to resolve conflicts early during the employment. Strikingly, this ruling puts employers on notice that they can be held liable if evidence is produced to show that an employer hired an employee who the employer could have known had a propensity to commit a criminal act or behavior which resulted in injury or damage to someone in the workplace.

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