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Smith v. Lannert

St. Louis Court of Appeals, Missouri
429 S.W.2d 8 (1968)


Facts

Midway through her shift as a checker at Bettendorf-Rapp (defendant) supermarket, Doris Smith (plaintiff) asked store manager Wesley Lannert (defendant) if she could take a restroom break. Lannert had reprimanded Smith for taking too much time on a previous break. This time, he told her to go back to work at her checkout or he would “spank her.” When Smith nonetheless headed for the ladies’ room, Lannert pushed her into the employees’ lounge, bent her over, and spanked her three times, leaving red marks. Smith sued for assault, asserting Bettendorf-Rapp held respondeat-superior liability as Lannert’s employer. Lannert testified he thought the incident was a joke and that he was not acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time. Smith testified that neither she nor Lannert were joking. Store policy entitled employees to rest breaks at the store manager’s discretion and prohibited laying hands on any employee. The jury found the supermarket liable for $2500 as respondeat superior, but found Smith was not injured in the course of her employment (which would have precluded her claim under applicable workers’ compensation laws). The supermarket appealed, arguing it had no prior complaints about Lannert, and that he was acting beyond the scope of his employment and in violation of store policy.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brady, Commissioner)

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