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What is negligent hiring?

You’re out for a walk and a distracted driver for a local delivery service runs a red light and hits you, causing injury. You have enrolled your child in daycare, only for them to tell you a story of abuse at the hands of one of the facility’s employees. In these cases and others like them, a victim may be able to pursue a claim for negligent hiring or retention, in addition to any other cause of action that he or she may have.

As a general rule, employers are liable for the damages that their employees cause while on the job. Like most laws, employee liability laws vary from state to state and in how they apply in certain situations. Missouri has enacted a statute that covers an employer’s responsibility for negligent hiring or retention and it differs a little from most states’ laws.

In Missouri, in order for a plaintiff to win a case based on an employer’s negligence in hiring or retention, he or she must prove two elements. The first element is that the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s dangerous proclivities. What makes this element a little tricky is Missouri’s rule that an employer is not obligated to investigate an employee’s criminal record simply because he or she will interact with the public; however, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on the nature of the employment.

The second element that must be proven for a successful suit is that the employer’s negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. In order for an action to be considered proximate, it must have in some way caused the injury in question. There are many tests for determine proximate cause depending on the injury, but most of these tests deal with foreseeability, risk and independent causes.

Source: American Bar Association, “Negligent hiring and Negligent Retention: A State by State analysis“, accessed Dec. 8, 2014