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Can a Plaintiff Hold an Employer Liable for Alleged Actions that Were Clearly Outside the Scope of Employment?

Burdine & Brown June 10, 2022

Dollar General has been sued by a grandmother who was physically assaulted by an employee of Dollar General.  The grandmother was shopping with her grandson on his birthday. The suit alleges that an employee of the Dollar General store physically assaulted the grandmother multiple times when the grandmother attempted to pay for her merchandise. 

When the grandmother left the store with her grandson, this employee allegedly ran out of the store and physically attacked the grandmother again. 

The lawsuit also alleges that the employee of the store had a propensity for violence which means that, generally speaking, an employee and supervisor of a store must be responsible for exercising ordinary care for the safety of the invitees to the store.

The defense of the case will hinge on the fact these actions took place outside of the scope of employment The “bad acts” of the employee will need to be during the time of employment and authorized by the employer. The defense is going to argue that “assaulting a customer is not within the scope of employment”. 

On the other hand, the plaintiff will argue that it is the employee that was negligently hired and retained so that the grandmother could possibly sue Dollar General for the damages she had incurred. 

Another question would be: did the employer know or have reasons to know that an employee would assault a customer. An employer is charged with knowledge if a background check reveals an employee’s past consistent bad behaviors towards another customer or coworkers who complained that this employee engaged in similar conduct. That will all come out in a Discovery but this sounds like a very interesting case, nevertheless.