A recent decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals (by Judge James Lambert) in Allgeier v. MV Transportation, Inc., 2010-CA-001907, issued 5/11/2012, discussed the difference between respondeat superior and negligent hiring/supervision claims, as well as the availability of punitive damages from an employer for the acts of an employee.
The Court held that the fact that an employer admits vicarious liability does not prevent a plaintiff from pursuing other claims on theories of direct negligence by the employer, including negligent hiring, training, supervision or retention. The Court explained that there is a definite distinction between an employer’s direct liability and vicarious liability such that both claims could proceed simultaneously, and rejected what the opinion suggested was a minority view to the contrary.
The case also discussed what must be proven in order for an injured party to recover punitive damages on a gross negligence claim against a principal or employer for the act of an agent or employee. The Court held that the injured party must show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the principal or employer authorized, ratified, or anticipated the conduct that caused injury. The trial court had dismissed the gross negligence/punitive damages claim by summary judgment. The Court of Appeals held that under the circumstances of this case the principal had effectively authorized or ratified the actions of the employee, and therefore remanded the case to the trial court for retrial on punitive damages.
The case is not yet final but was designated for publication in the South Western Reporter. Cases that are not final may not be cited as authority in Kentucky.
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