Davis v. Devereux Foundation
New Jersey Supreme Court
37 A.3d 469 (2012)
Charlene McClain worked as a resident counselor at the Devereux Foundation, which provides services for disabled people. McClain scalded resident Roland Davis with boiling water as he got out of bed. Devereux had conducted a thorough background check, and McClain had no criminal or prior violent history. McClain attributed the incident to Davis’s previous aggressive behavior, which included kicking her, combined with her anger about her boyfriend’s murder six months beforehand. McClain boiled a cup of water and took it into Davis’s room because she thought he was going to kick her. Davis did not kick McClain, but she told him to get out of bed and poured the water on him anyway, because she “was just mad.” Davis’s mother sued McClain, as well as Devereux and its local affiliate (together, defendants) asserting vicarious liability. The trial court found no nondelegable duty to protect residents from employees’ criminal acts and dismissed the vicarious-liability claims. The appellate court agreed but reversed on the ground that a jury could find McClain was acting within the scope of her employment, prompting a further appeal.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Patterson, J.)
Dissent (Hoens, J.)
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