Legal Memorandum: A Negligent Hiring Claim in VA

Issue: Under Virginia law, what are the elements of a negligent hiring claim?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Negligent hiring; Liability for harm
Jurisdiction: Virginia
Cited Cases: 513 S.E.2d 395; 236 Va. 206; 77 Va. Cir. 93; 372 S.E.2d 391; 257 Va. 256
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 02/01/2015

“Virginia has long recognized the tort of negligent hiring.”  J. v. Victory Tabernacle Baptist Church, 236 Va. 206, 208, 372 S.E.2d 391, 393 (1988).  The cause of action is based on the principle that one who conducts an activity through employees is subject to liability for harm resulting from the employer’s conduct if the employer is negligent in the hiring of an improper person in work involving an unreasonable risk of harm to others.  Southeast Apts. Mgmt., Inc. v. Jackmann, 257 Va. 256, 261, 513 S.E.2d 395, 397 (1999) (citing Ponticas v. K.M.S. Invs., 331 N.W.2d 907, 911 (Minn. 1983)). 

In Victory Tabernacle Baptist Church, the plaintiff was a ten year-old, girl who had allegedly been assaulted by a church employee.  Id. at 207, 392.  The church argued that it was immune from such claims as a charitable organization, but the court rejected that argument and held, “the independent tort of negligent hiring operates as an exception to the charitable immunity of religious institutions just as it does with regard to charitable hospitals.”  Id. at 210, 394.

However, in Lantz v. Believers Baptist Church of Sterling, et al., the plaintiff alleged she and her daughters had resided with the pastor and his family, and the pastor’s sons had sexually molested the plaintiff’s daughters.  77 Va. Cir. 93, 93-94 (Va. Cir. 2008).  The daughters also attended the church’s school.  Id. at 94.  The plaintiff alleged negligence against the various defendants for failure to keep […]

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