You are on page 1of 4

You Decide Assignmnet_Monika Wojnakowska GM597

1.Factual Summary Coleman was an employee of Software Inc. selling security equipment to businesses and bars. His position required him to be on the road most of the time to meet with Software prospective clients. During one of his sales trips Coleman stole a ring from a jewelry store that was meant to be a gift for his wife. He then caused an accident at a bar while talking business with the bar owner, Jimmy. As a result of the accident Jimmy was killed and sustained major damage. Software Inc. fired Coleman but failed to interview him before the termination as required by employer's handbook. A week later Coleman called a client, John, trying to make up for the incident at the bar and told him that Software Inc. is paying for the dinner. At the meeting Coleman punched John in the eye, causing a severe eye damage. As a result of these events Jimmy's mother, bar owners and John sued Software Inc. for damages caused by Coleman. The jewelry store sued Software for the value of the ring. Coleman sued Software for wrongful termination.

2. Issues and Legal concepts Will Software Inc. be liable to the owners of Jimmys bar and Jimmy's Mom? The law that applies in this case is agency law, where Software Inc. was a principal and Coleman was an agent. Coleman, being employed as a sales person by Software Inc., had most likely the capacity to bind the company to sales contracts. The law says that a" principal and an agent are each personally liable for their own tortious conduct. The principal is liable for the tortious conduct of an agent who is acting within the scope of his or her authority. "(1) The question is whether Coleman was within the scope of his employment when he blew the fireball and killed Jimmy and caused the damage in the bar. The answer to this question is not so easy because the act of blowing a fireball at a bar was not specifically requested or authorized by the principal, Software Inc. It was not an act that the agent, Coleman was employed to perform either. Yet, the facts in the case are that when Coleman met with Jimmy

at the bar they were talking about business. Coleman wanted to impress Jimmy and meeting him at the bar was not unusual for his type of job. Coleman was also advancing principal's purpose (talking with Jimmy about business) when the act occurred. It will most likely be established that Coleman was acting within the scope of his employment when Jimmy was killed and therefore Software will be held liable for killing Jimmy and causing damage to the bar. Based on the same principal Software will be held liable to Jimmy's mom for her son's death because Coleman was acting within the scope of his employment. Will Software Inc. be liable to the jewelry store for the value of the ring? Applying the same law concept as above Software Inc. should not be liable to jewelry store because Coleman was not within the authority of his employment when he stole the ring. Stealing the ring was not specifically requested or authorized by the principal, Software Inc. It was not an act that the agent, Coleman was employed to perform either. Coleman was not advancing his principal's purpose when he stole the ring. Will John win his lawsuit against Software Inc. for his injuries? The issue here is a battery which is an example of an intentional tort. "Intentional torts include such acts as assault, battery, false imprisonment, and other intentional conduct that causes injury to another person." The law says that "a principal is not liable for the intentional torts of agents and employees that are committed outside the principals scope of business."(2) Was Coleman acting outside Software scope of business when he punched John during dinner? The answer is yes because Coleman was no longer employed by Software when he called John. Coleman was outside the scope of his employment when he injured John therefore the principal, Software Inc. is not liable for John's injuries. The other problem that arises is whether John believed that Coleman was still an agent of Software Inc. when he was invited to dinner. The answer is yes because Software did not notify John (or at least we don't have information in the case that they did) about Coleman's termination. This is so called apparent authority : when a person who is not an agent appears to an outsider to have been given authority by the principal. In that case the principal is liable for the acts of anyone he allows to appear to have authority. However, in case of agent's intentional torts the courts apply a motivation test to determine if they were committed within agent's scope of employment. It appears that Coleman's act of hurting John was motivated by personal reasons and there is no evidence that Coleman had committed similar acts in the past and could not have been

foreseen by Software therefore they should not be held responsible for Coleman's injuries to John. Should Coleman win his wrongful termination suit with Software Inc.? "A wrongful termination is one in which an employer has discharged or laid off an employee in violation of a legal right of the employee. It is not enough for the employee to simply show that he/she was treated unfairly but the person must show that the firing was wrongful meaning one or more legal rights were violated. "(3) The question is the case is whether Software had a good cause to terminate Coleman. The answer is definitely yes, because Coleman committed intentional tortious acts and did not follow company policy when he stole the ring or killed Jimmy. Software may have violated company policy by not interviewing Coleman before terminating him but Coleman's legal rights were not violated. Software had a good cause to terminate Coleman. Coleman should not win his wrongful termination suit against his former employer.

3. Conclusion Software Inc. will most likely be held liable to the owner's of Jimmy's bar and Jimmy's mom for Coleman's acts based on " the common law doctrine of respondeat superior (let the master answer), which, in turn, is based on the legal theory of vicarious liability (liability without fault). In other words, the principal is liable because of his or her employment contract with the negligent agent, not because the principal was personally at fault" (4). Coleman was acting within the scope of his employment when he caused Jimmy's death and destroyed the bar. Software Inc. will not be held liable to the jewelry store based on the fact that Coleman did not act within the scope of his employment when he stole the ring. Software should not be held liable for Coleman's injuries to John because Coleman was acting outside the scope of his employment when he hurt John and his motivation was personal. Coleman should not win the lawsuit against Software Inc. for wrongful termination because the employer had a "good cause" to terminate him. He was acting outside the scope of employment and caused death and damage when he should be performing his duties as employee. He was also dishonest when he stole the ring.

References:

(1) Business Law: Legal Environment, Online Commerce, Business Ethics, and International Issues, 7th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions p. 474) (2) (Business Law: Legal Environment, Online Commerce, Business Ethics, and International Issues, 7th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions p. 477). (3)http://www.wrongfultermination.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=22&I temid=86 (4) (Business Law: Legal Environment, Online Commerce, Business Ethics, and International Issues, 7th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions p. 474).