Vicarious Liability Imposed in Workplace Altercation

Plaintiff, Larry Jones, a foreman for Mid-South Mechanical Contractors, Inc., suffered personal injuries after a physical altercation with a co-worker. On the day of the attack, Jones informed an employee that he was being fired. The employee who was being fired had a known criminal past, propensity for violence and tendency to exhibit aggressive behavior. The terminated employee refused to leave the job site. The owner of the company was called but he failed to diffuse the situation. The owner attempted to hit the employee with a tape measure and Jones tried to prevent the altercation. Jones was struck in the head and knocked unconscious. He complained of head and neck pain and, during the course of his treatment, underwent a three-level cervical fusion.

Jones sued his employer for vicarious liability for the actions of the fired co-employee. After discovery, Jones moved for summary judgment on the issue of vicarious liability. The court concluded that Jones met the factors laid out in prior caselaw and granted summary judgment on that issue.

The case proceeded to trial on the issues of causation and damages. Mid-South argued unsuccessfully that surgery was necessary as a result of a pre-existing injury. A federal jury found in favor of Jones, determining that the injuries were caused by the altercation at work. The jury awarded a total of $283,754.12, broken down as: $83,754.12 for past medical expenses, $180,000.00 for past pain and suffering, $10,000.00 for future pain and suffering, and $10,000.00 for loss of enjoyment of life.

Jones, et al. v. Mid-South Mechanical Contractors, Inc., et al.

Trevor M. Cutaiar