Malinda S. Matlock secured a ruling from the Oklahoma Court of Appeals affirming summary judgment in favor of her client, a local business, and against the plaintiffs for their claims of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligence, Loss of Consortium, Defamation, and Blacklisting.

The lead plaintiff alleged that the business’s sole director made unwelcome sexual advances, and she was forced to quit as a result. The co-plaintiff asserted claims for loss of consortium due to the alleged emotional injuries to the lead plaintiff.

Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on several grounds that would be fatal to the plaintiffs’ claims even assuming the factual allegations to be true, including: (1) the claims are time-barred by the statute of limitations applicable to each claim; (2) the alleged conduct is outside the scope of the business director’s employment and the company cannot be held vicariously liable; (3) the lack of notice or reporting to management of any unacceptable conduct before or during the lead plaintiff’s employment is fatal to her claims for negligent retention; (4) the failure to establish the elements of defamation or blacklisting; and (5) the failure of the loss of consortium claim as it is derivative of the lead plaintiff’s failed claims.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Defendant on the claims of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Negligence finding that respondeat superior does not apply to acts outside the scope of employment and citing to N.H. v. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1999 OK 88, 998 P.2d 592 that established as a matter of law in Oklahoma that an assault upon a third person is not within the scope of employment with three (3) very narrow exceptions recognized.  None of the exceptions were alleged to apply to the plaintiffs in this case.

It is quite common for plaintiffs to sue employers in an effort to hold employers civilly liable for the sexual misconduct of a co-worker under a theory of respondeat superior since the individual tortfeasor seldom has any money to satisfy a judgment.  The precedent set in N.H. v. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is very clear and should be applied in these cases.