Malorney v. B & L Motor Freight, Inc.
496 N.E.2d 1086 (Ill.Ct.App.1986).

Facts:

  • Edward Harbour applied for a position of over-the-road driver with defendant B & L.
  • On the employment application, Harbour denied having criminal convictions.
  • However, he had a history of convictions for violent sex-related crimes and had been arrested the year prior for aggravated sodomy of two teenage hitchhikers while driving an over-the-road truck for another employer.
  • Subsequently, at an Indiana toll road plaza, Harbour picked up plaintiff Karen Malorney, a 17-year-old hitchhiker. In the sleeping compartment of his truck, he repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted her, threatened to kill her, and viciously beat her.
  • Plaintiff’s complaint charges defendant B & L with recklessness and wilful and wanton misconduct in negligently hiring Harbour without adequately checking his background.

History:
The trial court concluded that B & L had a duty to check Harbour’s criminal background.

Issue:
Whether defendant had a duty under the circumstances of this case to investigate Edward Harbour’s non-vehicular criminal record and to verify his negative response regarding criminal offenses which he furnished on his employment application prior to employing him and furnishing him an over-the-road truck with sleeping facilities.

Holding:
Yes.

Reasoning:

(1) A vehicle owner has a duty to deny the entrustment of a vehicle to a driver it knows, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence could have known, is incompetent.
(2) In addition, it is well settled in Illinois that a cause of action exists against an employer for negligently hiring a person the employer knew, or should have known, was unfit for the job.

In terms of foreseeability, the court held B & L probably knew, or should have known, that truckers are prone to give rides to hitchhikers despite rules against such actions.

Rule: An employer is required to exercise that degree of care in selecting employee for particular duty reasonably commensurate with the perils and hazards likely to be encountered in the performance of employee’s duty, that is, such care as a reasonably prudent person would exercise in view of the consequences that might reasonably be expected to result if an incompetent, careless or reckless agent was employed for a particular duty.

  •  It is not essential that one should have foreseen the precise injury which resulted from the act or omission of the agent.