The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

KFC Not Liable for Employee's Pistol Whipping Service

Back in 2007, a Kentucky Fried Chicken counter person decided exactly how long you can stand at the counter without making a decision about what sides you want, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. Michael C. Henry determined that customer Edward L. Harris had wasted the time of the customers behind him long enough, so Henry pulled out his pistol and asked Harris politely if he "want[ed] the f*ing chicken or not?"

Harris responded to Henry's threat with the question of whether Henry was going to shoot him over a bucket of chicken before turning to head for the door, according to the Daily News. At that point, Henry came up behind Harris and then pistol-whipped him in the face.

There are reasons why it pays to do background checks on your employees. One is the avoidance of liability in a negligent hiring lawsuit. In a negligent hiring situation, an employer can be held liable for the violent actions of an employee if the employer should have known that the employee was likely to attack someone. For example, if you have a customer service position open, it would be a bad idea to hire someone who has been arrested multiple times for assault and battery.

Another way for an employer to be liable for employees' actions is in a respondeat superior situation. Respondeat superior is the fancy way of saying that an employer is liable for the actions of its employees while they are working within the scope of their employment.

Here, KFC avoided negligent hiring liability because Henry's background did not show that he was a violent person. He did have a criminal record, but it was limited to non-violent crimes. KFC avoided respondeat superior liability because Henry's attack was not part of his job description. Unlike bouncers for a club, there is no part of the KFC job that requires forcing someone to order faster, or to use physical means to get them out of the store.

So be sure to avoid having your customers pistol-whipped and get a background check, even if you are not Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

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