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I should clarify a little bit: assuming that 1) the employee went against company policy and did something illegal at work,2) the company was alerted to these actions (though the employee was unable to be identified at the time) through official channels and, 3) those channels chose to ignore rather than investigate the matter, 4) the illegal actions were felonies and rather egregious, and 5) the employee was caught on camera elsewhere perpetuating the felony multiple times.

Under these circumstances, would the employer be liable to be sued? If so, would it be reasonable to assume that it would be unlikely to be thrown out? I had assumed some sort of negligence might be reasonable.

This is in the US.

Edit to address questions in the comments: this was a theft, performed during work hours while on duty. The employer did not directly benefit from the theft.

  • To be sued, somebody has to have been harmed, e.g. A raped B. If A sold heroin, A can be arrested and prosecuted, but the employer can't be sued by a regular person. The attorney general might sue the employer, though. You need to fill in a few more detail about who might sue, for what. – user6726 Dec 4 '17 at 19:31
  • @user6726 sorry, trying to be deliberately vague here. We're talking theft. – Broklynite Dec 4 '17 at 22:18
  • During work hours? While at work? While performing work-related duties? Any benefit obtained by the employer through the employee's illegal acts? All questions to be answered to put your question closer to being answerable! – A.fm. Dec 6 '17 at 23:10
  • @A.fm. I've added that info to the question, thanks – Broklynite Dec 7 '17 at 8:28
  • "the hospital", "the company" and "the employer" are all the same entity here? – Nate Eldredge Dec 7 '17 at 15:48
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It would depend on the relationship between the company and the person(s) harmed: is there a duty of care, where they were negligent? Suppose the matter is that a PCA was stealing patient property; the hospital knew of this, and did nothing about it. It is likely that a lawsuit in such a case would succeed, on the premise that patients have entrusted their property with the hospital, and the hospital not only failed to exhibit ordinary care in safeguarding the property, they even went beyond mere negligence and were willful in their disregard (I'm assuming that they ignored the situation and not that they were unknowing, but what they knew would be important). It would not matter if the higher-level policy were to aggressively pursue such thefts and the problem were simple one supervisor, because the hospital will be responsible for the willful wrongs of the supervisor.

The issue is not whether there were thefts, but whether the hospital did something wrong in connection with the thefts. A possible defense would be that the hospital could not at the time identify the employee and there was no reasonable action they could take to catch the thief: that is, was their response "we don't care", or was it "we are incapable of using the evidence to catch the thief"? They might have been negligent in failing to investigate (e.g. they didn't even bother to ask staff "Who is this?"). Basically, what matters most is the specific facts.

On the other hand, suppose an employee steals yogurt from the cafeteria. Theoretically, customers were harmed because operational costs were increased and passed on to the customer, but this is such a stretch that there is no realistic chance of such a suit surviving a motion to dismiss.

There is also a chance that the contract has a disclaimer of liability, for example "the hospital will not be liable for theft of patient goods", so if one has received a copy of the contract then one can search for any such statements. This could narrow the circumstances under which a lawsuit could succeed. Even with an "enter at own risk" clause, it could still succeed if the facility were grossly negligent.

  • Thank you. I am fully cognizant that you folks are operating in a vacuum here. Really, I simply don't know enough about law to judge whether or not the company might be able to be held liable. Since it appears that it is potentially possible, I can go with a little more confidence to a lawyer and find out if they are willing to take the case. – Broklynite Dec 7 '17 at 22:26
  • I think user6726 focused on how that hospital might be liable in general if you come to harm, because they have a duty of care. A lawyer would also look at the other side, that a company is often liable for the actions of an employee, even if they have no duty of care for the victim. – gnasher729 Dec 11 '17 at 0:27

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