Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.

Marquis v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 961 P.2d 1213 (Kan. 1998).

This case addresses the following issue:

Does the admission that an employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment when the employee negligently caused injuries to another prevent an action for both respondeat superior (employer responsible for employee) and negligent hiring, retention, or supervision?

This case explored the issue of whether the admission that an employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment when the employee negligently caused injuries to another prevent an action for both respondeat superior and negligent entrustment or negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. In exploring this case, the court concluded that a plaintiff can bring claims of both respondeat superior and negligent hiring, retention, or supervision in situations where an employee admitted that he or she was acting with the scope of their employment. Id. at 1225.

The plaintiff was severely injured when her car was struck by an intoxicated driver who ran a red light. Id. at 1215. Furthermore, the intoxicated driver’s car was owned by his wife, who was insured by State Farm Mutual (defendant). Id. The wife owned a small cleaning business and the business was also insured by the defendant under a contractor’s policy. Id. Additionally, the husband was an hourly employee of his wife’s business and was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. Id. The plaintiff and defendant entered into a settlement agreement where the defendant admitted that the husband was an employee acting with the scope of his employment; therefore, respondeat superior was established. Id. at 1224. After the settlement agreement, the plaintiff wanted to make additional claims against the wife for negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. Id. at 1218. In response, the defendant argued that the plaintiff was prevented from proceeding against the wife under the theory of negligent hiring, retention, or supervision because such claims had not been included in the petition on which the settlement agreement had been based. Id. Additionally, the defendant argued that it was improper to file a claim against an employer under negligent hiring where the employer had already admitted respondeat superior liability. Id. at 1224.

In order to defend their argument, the defendant cited a Missouri Supreme Court case which held that in an automobile accident it was improper to allow a plaintiff to proceed against an employer under the theory of negligent hiring where the employer had already admitted respondeat superior liability. Id. According to that Missouri court, negligent hiring was a form of attached liability in that the employer could not be made more liable than the employee. Id. Furthermore, the defendant noted that this rule regarding negligent hiring and respondeat superior was the majority rule in the country. Id.

Despite this being the majority rule, this court noted that Kansas followed the minority rule which stated that an admission that the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment did not prevent an action for both respondeat superior and negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. Id. The court went on to cite four Kansas cases that rested on the proposition that negligent hiring, retention, or supervision were crimes distinct from respondeat superior and that liability was not attached but instead ran directly from the employer to the person injured. Id. at 1224-25.

In sum, the defendant’s admission that the husband was an employee acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident did not prevent the plaintiff from maintaining an action based on claims of negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. Id. at 1225.