California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

426. Negligent Hiring, Supervision, or Retention of Employee

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was harmed by [name of employee] and that [name of employer defendant] is responsible for that harm because [name of employer defendant] negligently [hired/ supervised/ [or] retained] [name of employee]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of employee] was [unfit/ [or] incompetent] to perform the work for which [he/she] was hired;

2. That [name of employer defendant] knew or should have known that [name of employee] was [unfit/ [or] incompetent] and that this [unfitness/ [or] incompetence] created a particular risk to others;

3. That [name of employee]’s [unfitness/ [or] incompetence] harmed [name of plaintiff]; and

4. That [name of employer defendant]’s negligence in [hiring/ supervising/ [or] retaining] [name of employee] was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

New December 2009

Directions for Use

Give this instruction if the plaintiff alleges that the employer of an employee who caused harm was negligent in the hiring, supervision, or retention of the employee after actual or constructive notice of the employee’s unfitness. For instructions holding the employer vicariously liable (without fault) for the acts of the employee, see the Vicarious Responsibility series, CACI No. 3700 et seq.

It appears that liability may also be imposed on the hirer of an independent contractor for the negligent selection of the contractor. (See Noble v. Sears, Roebuck & Co. (1973) 33 Cal.App.3d 654, 662—663 [109 Cal.Rptr. 269].)

Sources and Authority

  • “California case law recognizes the theory that an employer can be liable to a third person for negligently hiring, supervising, or retaining an unfit employee.” (Doe v. Capital Cities (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1038, 1054 [58 Cal.Rptr.2d 122].)
  • “Negligence liability will be imposed on an employer if it ‘knew or should have known that hiring the employee created a particular risk or hazard and that particular harm materializes.’ ” (Phillips v. TLC Plumbing, Inc. (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1133, 1139 [91 Cal.Rptr.3d 864].)
  • “Liability for negligent supervision and/or retention of an employee is one of direct liability for negligence, not vicarious liability.” (Delfino v. Agilent Technologies, Inc. (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 790, 815 [52 Cal.Rptr.3d 376].)
  • “Liability for negligent hiring and supervision is based upon the reasoning that if an enterprise hires individuals with characteristics which might pose a danger to customers or other employees, the enterprise should bear the loss caused by the wrongdoing of its incompetent or unfit employees. The tort has developed in California in factual settings where the plaintiff’s injury occurred in the workplace, or the contact between the plaintiff and the employee was generated by the employment relationship.” (Mendoza v. City of Los Angeles (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 1333, 1339—1340 [78 Cal.Rptr.2d 525].)
  • “We are cited to no authority, nor have we found any authority basing liability on lack of, or on inadequate, supervision, in the absence of knowledge by the principal that the agent or servant was a person who could not be trusted to act properly without being supervised.” (Noble, supra, 33 Cal.App.3d at p. 664.)
  • “Apparently, [defendant] had no actual knowledge of [the employee]’s past. But the evidence recounted above presents triable issues of material fact regarding whether the [defendant] had reason to believe [the employee] was unfit or whether the [defendant] failed to use reasonable care in investigating [the employee].” (Evan F. v. Hughson United Methodist Church (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 828, 843 [10 Cal.Rptr.2d 748]; cf. Flores v. AutoZone West Inc. (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 373, 384—386 [74 Cal.Rptr.3d 178] [employer had no duty to investigate and discover that job applicant had a juvenile delinquency record].)
  • “A claim that an employer was negligent in hiring or retaining an employee-driver rarely differs in substance from a claim that an employer was negligent in entrusting a vehicle to the employee. Awareness, constructive or actual, that a person is unfit or incompetent to drive underlies a claim that an employer was negligent in hiring or retaining that person as a driver. (See Judicial Council of Cal. Civ. Jury Instns. (2011) CACI No. 426.) That same awareness underlies a claim for negligent entrustment. (See CACI No. 724.) In a typical case, like this, the two claims are functionally identical.” (Diaz v. Carcamo (2011) 51 Cal.4th 1148, 1157 [126 Cal.Rptr.3d 443, 253 P.3d 535].)
  • “[I]f an employer admits vicarious liability for its employee’s negligent driving in the scope of employment, ‘the damages attributable to both employer and employee will be coextensive.’ Thus, when a plaintiff alleges a negligent entrustment or hiring cause of action against the employer and the employer admits vicarious liability for its employee’s negligent driving, the universe of defendants who can be held responsible for plaintiff’s damages is reduced by one—the employer—for purposes of apportioning fault under Proposition 51. Consequently, the employer would not be mentioned on the special verdict form. The jury must divide fault for the accident among the listed tortfeasors, and the employer is liable only for whatever share of fault the jury assigns to the employee.” (Diaz, supra, 41 Cal.4th at p. 1159, internal citations omitted.)
  • Restatement Third of Agency, section 7.05(1), states: “A principal who conducts an activity through an agent is subject to liability for harm to a third party caused by the agent’s conduct if the harm was caused by the principal’s negligence in selecting, training, retaining, supervising, or otherwise controlling the agent.”

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, § 1190

Chin et al., California Practice Guide: Employment Litigation, Ch. 5-H, Negligence, ¶¶ 5:615 et seq. (The Rutter Group)

3 California Torts, Ch. 40B, Employment Discrimination and Harassment, § 40B.21 (Matthew Bender)

21 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 248, Employer’s Liability for Employee’s Torts, § 248.12 (Matthew Bender)

10 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 100A, Employer and Employee: Respondeat Superior, § 100A.22 (Matthew Bender)