Personal Injury Lawyer - Proving your case. Can I proceed under both respondeat superior and negligent hiring causes of action?
Oklahoma recognizes a cause of action for negligent hiring and retention. See Mistletoe Express Service, Inc. v. Culp, 353 P.2d 9 (Okla. 1960). However, the doctrine of respondeat superior provides a vehicle to hold an employer liable for the intentional acts of its employee's. In the case of Jordan v. Cates, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that when an employer stipulates that the incident in question occurred during the employee’s employment and that the employer would stand liable for damages under the respondeat superior theory, if the employee was found liable, then any cause of action for negligent hiring and/or retention, should not stand. Jordan v. Cates, 935 P.2d 289 (Okla. 1997). The rationale behind the Court’s ruling was that the Plaintiff, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, was entitled to collect the damages suffered from the Defendant. Therefore, there was no need for the advancement of an alternative theory of recovery and the lower court’s dismissal of the negligence action was proper.
In Jordan, the Plaintiff sued on a respondeat superior and a negligent theory in an intentional assault and battery case. The employer stipulated that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment and then filed a Motion in Limine to exclude evidence of the employee’s past conduct. The District Court granted the Motion in Limine and gave the employer summary judgment on the negligent hiring claim. The Court of Civil Appeals for the State of Oklahoma reversed the trial Court’s ruling and was of the opinion that respondeat superior and negligent hiring were independent sources of liability against the employer and that evidence of the employee’s past conduct should have been admitted. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma vacated the Court of Appeals decision and held that when the employer stipulates that liability, if any, to be applicable under respondeat superior, then any other alternative legal theory to hold the employer liable for the conduct of that employee is “unnecessary and superfluous.” Jordan, at 293.