CASE ANALYSIS: Can Victim of Kidnapping Sue Kidnapper’s Employer?

FACTS: During a routine traffic stop in East San Diego County, police discovered an elderly woman bound and gagged in the back seat of the Dodge Magnum. According to reports, 75-year-old Natalie Vinje was kidnapped from her home on Friday night, and bound with duct tape. It was discovered that she had been beaten, and police speculate she may have been on the way to her death.

Police say one of the suspects arrested in the crime worked for a carpet company and sold the victim an vacuum cleaner on Monday. After he had performed work for the victim, he returned later that evening with accomplices to commit the crime. Three people have been arrested.

LEGAL ANALYSIS: The three charged in the crime will face criminal charges, but does Ms. Vinje have a civil case for damages against the carpet cleaning company that apparently employed the kidnapper? Maybe. Typically, employers are only liable for the negligent acts of their employees that committed in the course and scope of their employment, but not liable for an employee’s intentional criminal acts. The employer could be liable, however, if it knew or should have known that its employer had a propensity to commit crimes like the one here. That can only be determined after a thorough investigation, such as an examination of criminal records, and interviews with management.

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