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Making A Hotel Pay For Murder
May 16, 2012
An Indiana hotel employee committed murder and the jury said the hotel was 2 percent responsible. (It also said the victim was 1 percent responsible.) Ninety-seven percent of the responsibility, of course, belonged to the murderer. So the hotel was to be liable for 2 percent of the damages.
The appellate court rejected this limitation, primarily for technical legal reasons that may or may not have been sound. But then it said:
Public policy considerations support our decision today ... If the allocation of fault to a criminal defendant reduces the liability of the negligent defendant whose action or inaction allowed the harm to occur, as it did here, the injured party will not be adequately compensated. In addition, the criminal defendant who has been identified and convicted for his intentional act likely will be both judgment proof and without insurance coverage from which the injured person could be compensated. Further, the negligent business owner can insure against liability arising from inadequate security. Combining the allocation of fault of the criminal defendant with the negligent defendant imposes liability where there is insurability.
Hat tip to Point of Law, which also points out that part of what won the hotel a share of liability in the first place was failing to do a background check on the employee who then committed murder -- and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is restricting employers' consideration of criminal records. [This post has been corrected to reflect this clarification.]