How much evidence should an employer provide in a negligence case?

Employer allegedly liable for negligent hiring, supervision, training, retention of employees

How much evidence should an employer provide in a negligence case?

An employer recently faced a lawsuit arising from a rear-end collision that occurred in November 2020. A tractor-trailer of CKJ Transport, driven by an employee acting in the course and scope of his employment, struck the claimant’s vehicle from behind.

The claimant in this case sued CKJ Transport and its employee. He alleged that the employer was liable for the negligence of its employee based on the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.

The employer was allegedly liable for gross negligence and negligence in its hiring, recruitment, selection, training, monitoring, supervision, and retention of its employees, including in its discipline, re-training, and/or termination of incompetent, careless, or reckless employees.

Read more: Is an employee’s drive home within the scope of employment?

The claimant made requests for production (RFP) and a motion to compel discovery so that CKJ Transport could provide all documents:

  • relating to, pertaining to, identifying, and/or involving prior vehicular crashes involving rear-end collisions or cellular phone use allegations for accidents involving CKJ Transport employees driving company vehicles (also known as the Prior Accident RFP)
  • in its possession relating to inspections, investigations, citations, warnings, or other reports of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) about CKJ Transport’s facilities or vehicles if such reports concerned accidents involving rear-end collisions or cellular phone use allegations (also known as the DOT RFP)

The trial court issued an order requiring CKJ Transport to produce the documents responding to the Prior Accident RFP and the documents responding to the DOT RFP relating to USDOT and TXDOT.

Requests overbroad

In the case of In re J & GK Properties – CKJ North Texas Series LLC d/b/a CKJ Transport of North Texas, the Texas Third Court of Appeals at Austin disagreed with the order of the trial court, specifically the part relating to the two RFPs because they had an overly broad scope.

The appellate court discussed the judgment of In re Contract Freighters. That case arose from a rear-end collision involving a tractor-trailer driven by an employee of Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI). The plaintiffs sued CFI and the driver for gross negligence, negligence, and negligence per se.

The plaintiffs in that case alleged that CFI, which was liable for the driver’s actions as his employer, was negligent in hiring, entrusting, training, supervising, and retaining the driver; negligent in establishing, implementing, and enforcing safety policies and procedures; and negligent in providing unsafe equipment.

In that case, the Texas Supreme Court found that the plaintiffs’ two discovery requests, which asked CFI and USDOT to provide records for every rear-end accident involving CFI nationwide for a five-year period, were not reasonably tailored to their claims or the factual circumstances of the accident.

Broader scope of documents for negligence case

The appellate court went back to discussing the present case. This case involved a similar accident and claims as in the case of In re Contract Freighters but requested an even broader scope of documents than the already overbroad request in that case.

First, the appellate court noted that the request in the case of In re Contract Freighters asked for documents from USDOT concerning rear-end collisions involving CFI for a five-year period.

In contrast, the original DOT RFP in this case was not limited by subject matter, the appellate court said. It asked for all documents from USDOT and TXDOT concerning inspections, investigations, citations, warnings, or other reports regarding CKJ Transport’s facilities or vehicles for a period of seven and a half years.

Next, the appellate court noted that the request in the case of In re Contract Freighters asked for a list of all lawsuits in the prior five-year period involving rear-end collisions where the CFI was a defendant. The requested information included the case styles, the dates of the accidents and the lawsuits, and the jurisdictions involved.

On the other hand, the original Prior Accident RFP in this case asked for all documents relating to accidents involving CKJ Transport employees driving CKJ Transport vehicles for a ten-year period, the appellate court said.

Lastly, the appellate court rejected the claimant’s argument that his RFPs asked for information relevant to his claims for negligent hiring and supervision, including the alleged unreasonableness of CKJ Transport’s policies and the foreseeability of the dangers of these inadequate policies. The claimant failed to show how his requests advanced these claims, the appellate court concluded.

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