NC Excessive Court docket restores judgment in opposition to Well being Care Co. in residence invasion

New You can now listen to Insurance Journal articles!

An elderly couple who survived a home break-in planned by an employee of a health care company he hired to take care of them are entitled to the $750,000 a jury awarded them for the company’s negligent hiring North Carolina Supreme Court ruled.

In a 5-0 decision on Friday, the High Court overturned a panel from the North Carolina Court of Appeals that had ruled in a separate decision that Thomas and Teresa Keith failed to meet the “increased burden of proof” for a negligent hiring claim.

The Supreme Court said the appellate body misinterpreted previous case law and set the bar too high.

In an opinion written by Judge Tamara Barranger, the court said: “A person of reasonable caution could reasonably have foreseen that as a result of Health-Pro’s negligent attitude, the break-in and robbery of Keith’s home, or a similar deleterious outcome, was likely.” was. and that the trauma of such an event would hurt the Keiths.”

The Keiths hired Health-Pro to care for them at home in 2012 after Thomas underwent heart surgery. Both he and Teresa are older and, according to reports, have mobility problems.

Health-Pro’s owner, Sylvester Bailey III, told the Keiths and their son Fred that all employees would be subjected to criminal background checks. The company’s website says it has carefully screened all employees.

North Carolina law also requires home-care company employees entering customers’ homes to submit to a background check from the State Bureau of Investigation or other approved agency.

The company later admitted that it failed to conduct the required background check when it hired Deitra Ann Clark in September 2015. A thorough investigation would have found that she had been convicted of driving with a suspended license in 2008 for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in 2009 and 2010, charged with transmitting threats in 2010 and 2011 and convicted of criminal contempt im year 2010.

Deitra Clark (NC Corrections Department)

Clark said in her application that she was never convicted of any crimes or pleaded guilty. She also lied about having a valid driver’s license.

In 2016, family members discovered that $900 in rolled coins and $1,260 in cash were missing from Keith’s home. Health-Pro promised not to assign Clark to the home again in the future, but sent her back just weeks later.

On September 28, 2016, Clark drove two accomplices to Keith’s home. The accomplices used a hidden spare key to enter the house and went into the cave where Mr. Keith was watching a movie. They switched off the phone and took a .32 caliber gun from Mr. Keith’s bedside table. They also took his ATM card from a desk drawer and stole two boxes of rolled coins totaling $500.

The two criminals, at gunpoint, forced Mr. Keith to drive them to an ATM and forced him to withdraw $1,000. They asked Mr. Keith to drive them to a nearby elementary school, got out of the car and ran away with the stolen cash, coins and gun.

Health-Pro released Clark after police identified her in a photo taken at a Coinstar machine nearby, where she was converting the coin rolls into cash.

The Keiths filed a lawsuit in Pitt County Superior Court. A jury found Health-Pro negligent in hiring Clark without a thorough background check and awarded Mr. Keith $500,000 and his wife $250,000.

Health-Pro appealed and persuaded a panel of the Court of Appeals to overturn the jury’s verdict. The appeals court decision states that a 2005 decision in Little v. Omega Meats I Inc. found that in order to support a claim of negligent hiring against an employer for acts, a plaintiff must prove each of the three elements , which took place outside the employment area:

  1. The employee and the complainant must have been in places to which they each had a right at the time the wrongful act was committed.
  2. The plaintiff must have become acquainted with the worker at the time of the wrongful act as a direct result of the employment.
  3. The employer must have received some benefit, even if only potential or indirect, from the meeting between the employee and the plaintiff that resulted in the plaintiff’s injury.

The Supreme Court said the appellate body erred in insisting on evidence of “such rigid requirements”. The court said the factors cited in the Little case are relevant to determining whether an employer has a duty of care to a plaintiff that must be demonstrated to support a negligent hiring claim, but the decision does not require each of the three elements will be proven.

Judge Philip Berger Jr. disagreed with the majority opinion and Chief Justice Paul Newby disagreed in part. Berger, in a dissenting opinion, said that nothing in the available information about Clark Health-Pro had suggested she was a violent individual who would engage in a home invasion and armed robbery.

“Additionally, at the time of the robbery, the defendant had neither the ability nor the authority to oversee or control Clark’s actions,” Berger wrote.

North Carolina Department of Justice records show that Clark was convicted of first-degree burglary and second-degree kidnapping. She is currently serving a sentence of 10 years and 11 months at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh.

North Carolina

The most important insurance news, every working day in your inbox.

Get the proven newsletter of the insurance industry

Comments are closed.