As promised, here’s a real-life example of what can happen when reasonable care isn’t used. A high school in the Midwest was sued for negligent hiring, among other things, by the parents of a child who was molested by a teacher. There was no question about the facts; the teacher was caught in the act by a school administrator.

Even though the teacher was fired, the parents sued, claiming the school had failed to use reasonable care in the hiring process. This charge of negligent hiring was based on the fact that the teacher had, as it turned out, a history of child molestation, and the parents claimed this could have easily been discovered if the school had done a court check. Sadly, the claim proved to be true. The teacher had a prior conviction for child molestation in another state where he had taught before.

The school hadn’t checked anything! The teacher involved simply submitted his resume, the building principal and the assistant superintendent conducted two interviews with the individual, and a job offer was made.

The parents proved the school had been negligent because a “reasonable employer” would have—at the very least—done a simple court check to make sure the candidate (who would have supervisory responsibility over students) had no history of errant behavior. The trial court awarded the parents over a million dollars in damages as a result of the school’s failure to reasonable care in the hiring process. The school was guilty, in other words, of negligent hiring. The school’s negligence is obvious, but it could have been avoided by just using reasonable care in the hiring process (and plain old common sense).

Needless to say, the building principal and the assistant superintendent were both fired, and the president of the school board resigned.

On a happier note, more and more schools, both public and private, are instituting pre-employment background checks on every new hire to help avoid this sort of catastrophic situation and to be able to demonstrate that reasonable care is used in the hiring process!