Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Negligent Hiring/Negligent Retention Claims not Barred by Workers' Compensation Law

A common issue encountered in running a business is the application of the Workers’ Compensation laws. These laws provide for benefits to be paid to injured employees, and preclude employees from suing their employers for such injuries. Employers have, on occasion, sought to use these Workers’ Compensation laws to further narrow the scope of claims that an employee may bring.

On March 21, 2011, the Maryland Court of Appeals decided Ruffin Hotel Corporation of Maryland v. Gasper. In Ruffin Hotel, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County had dismissed Plaintiff’s negligent hiring/retention claim after finding that the cause of action was barred due to preemption by the State’s Workers’ Compensation laws. The Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals reversed, finding that the Workers’ Compensation laws did not preclude an employee from suing an employer for negligent hiring/retention of a fellow employee.

After the Court of Special Appeals’ decision, both parties sought review in the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that: “We reject the proposition that the General Assembly intended the Workers’ Compensation Commission is the exclusive forum in which a negligent hiring/retention claim must be litigated whenever such a claim is asserted by an employee against his or her employer as a result of intentional and unlawful misconduct of a fellow employee.”

A copy of the decision is found here.