In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, a defendant was properly granted summary judgment on a negligence claim because the plaintiff failed to provide any specific evidence to establish that defendant had knowledge of the risks or failed to act with ordinary care in hiring, training, and supervising a driver.
This happened in our backyard right here in Georgia
The passenger was an employee of one of the airlines at the Atlanta airport. On days she was scheduled to work, she’d park in off-site employee parking and take the shuttle. On November 17, 2016, she parked in the employee parking lot and boarded the shuttle bus to the airport. Shortly after the shuttle driver pulled away from the curb, he lost control of the bus, rolled over the curb, and struck a street sign before coming to a stop. The passenger struck her head on a pole inside the bus. The driver exited the bus, walking unsteadily, and moved toward the front of the bus to survey the damage. Another passenger saw the shuttle driver start pulling his hair and acting confused. As the driver returned to the bus, he collapsed and lost consciousness.
The shuttle driver was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he died several days later due to a massive gastrointestinal hemorrhage.
The passenger sued the shuttle company for damages related to her injuries, alleging that the shuttle company was directly liable for negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision.
The shuttle company moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence to establish negligent hiring, retention, training, or supervision. In support of its motion, the shuttle company submitted the testimony of its director of transportation, and expert testimony from an intensive care physician. The director also viewed video from the shuttle bus on the day of the accident and noted that the crash appeared to be the result of a medical emergency.
The shuttle company’s expert physician testified that the driver suffered a massive gastrointestinal hemorrhage that caused him to become confused and lose consciousness before going into hypovolemic shock due to the blood loss.
After a hearing, the trial court denied the shuttle company’s motion for summary judgment with regard to the allegations of negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision, which the trial court mistakenly referred to as “derivative” claims. The shuttle company appealed.
Judge Todd Markle of the Georgia Court of Appeals explained that in contrast to respondeat superior claims, claims of negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision are based on the employer’s negligence.
Negligent Hiring or Retention
The Court explained that an employer has a duty to exercise ordinary care not to hire or retain an employee the employer knew or should have known posed a risk of harm to others where it is reasonably foreseeable from the employee’s tendencies or propensities that the employee could cause the type of harm sustained by the plaintiff.
Negligent hiring and retention are closely related, Judge Markle said, separated only by when the employer becomes aware of the information that amounts to reasonable notice of the employee’s incompetence. If the employer discovers the employee’s incompetence after hiring, the retention becomes the negligent act.
In this case, the passenger bore the burden of establishing her claims for negligent hiring and retention. Judge Markle said that she failed to meet that burden. The passenger pointed to no specific evidence to establish the shuttle company had knowledge of the risks here, or that it failed to act with ordinary care in hiring and retaining the shuttle driver. As a result, this claim failed.
To establish a negligent training claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that inadequate training caused a reasonably foreseeable injury.
Here, the passenger provided no evidence that the shuttle company’s training policies were related to the accident in any way. As a result, this claim thus failed.
As far as negligent supervision, a plaintiff must produce some evidence of incidents similar to the behavior that was the cause of the injury at issue. An employer may be held liable for negligent supervision only where there’s enough evidence to establish that the employer reasonably knew or should have known of an employee’s tendencies to engage in certain behavior relevant to the injuries allegedly incurred by the plaintiff.
Here, the passenger again provided no evidence of similar behavior that would have put the shuttle company on notice. Therefore, this claim also failed.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to grant the motion. ABM Aviation v. Prince, 2023 Ga. App. LEXIS 47 *; 2023 WL 1429052 (Ga. App. February 1, 2023).
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