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The takeaway from Home Depot murder case

Georgia residents may have heard about the 2012 murder of a pregnant Home Depot employee. While the company said that it shouldn't be liable in a civil lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled against a request to reconsider its prior ruling against the company. This means that it will be remanded to a lower court. The appellate court found that Home Depot was vicariously liable because it failed to discipline an employee who had a record of harassment against female employees.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Home Depot had an obligation to discipline the man. While the company required him to take anger management classes, it never bothered to check to see if he actually attended them. Furthermore, the man who committed the crime was the victim's manager. This gave him power over her because he could reduce her hours or fire her.

What employers should know is that they could be held liable if a supervisor abuses his or her power no matter where the offense occurs. If a plaintiff can prove that a company should have known that a person was unfit to be hired in a supervisory role, they may be liable for negligent hiring. To protect themselves, employers should do thorough background checks to screen for those who may be considered unfit for an open position.

If a person dies because of another party's negligence, the victim's family may pursue a wrongful death case. Compensation may be available to help a family recoup a victim's lost wages or lost future earnings. Money may also be awarded to help provide for any dependents who were left behind. Legal counsel may use employment records, criminal records or witness statements to show that negligence may have led to murder.

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