Did the Emplorer Have No Legal Duty to Conduct Investigation Into the Employee's Criminal Background Before Employing Him ?
In Connes v. Molalla Transport System Inc., 831 P.2d 1316 (Colo. 1992), the entry of summary judgment was upheld in favor of an employer against whom a claim was made for the negligent hiring of a long-haul truck driver.
The plaintiff was working as a night clerk at a hotel in Colorado.
The employee left the highway on which he was traveling and observed the plaintiff alone in the lobby.
He went inside and sexually assaulted the plaintiff at knifepoint.
The plaintiff brought an action against the employer claiming that it knew or should have known that this employee would come into contact with members of the public and the employer had a duty to hire and retain employees who would not endanger them.
The plaintiff claimed the employer breached this duty by failing to adequately investigate the employee's criminal background which would have revealed his conviction of three prior felonies and the issuance of citations for lewd conduct, simple assault, fourth-degree assault and domestic violence.
The court remarked that in situations where the employment calls for frequent contact with members of the public, or close contact with a particular person as a result of a special relationship between such persons and the employer, an employer's duty of reasonable care is not satisfied by a mere review of personal data disclosed on a job application form or during a personal interview.
The court found the employer had a duty to use reasonable care in hiring a safe driver who would not create a danger to the public in carrying out the duties of the job.
However, the duties of this driver were restricted to hauling freight on interstate highways, which involved only incidental contact with third persons who had no special relationship with the employer.
The court held the risk of harm to the plaintiff was unforeseeable, and the employer had no legal duty to conduct an independent investigation into the driver's non-vehicular criminal background in order to protect a member of the general public, such as the plaintiff.