In July, an Orlando mother and her son filed a personal injury lawsuit against retailer Wal-Mart, alleging they were assaulted by store security officers. According to the Orlando Sentinel, on November 14, 2009, the plaintiffs Paula and Justin Ohle were shopping at the retailer’s location in Orange County and had purchased a television. Apparently, after opening the box, they discovered that the package contained a different television other than the one they believed they had purchased. Thereafter, they contacted store management and claimed that they were told they would be issued a refund. But, according to the report, the plaintiffs said that when they tried to return the television, they were confronted by store security who attempted to remove them by force.
Further, Plaintiff Paula Ohle alleges in the lawsuit that store security pushed her to the ground and “violently” subdued her son. Additionally, the plaintiffs contend that they were falsely accused of committing crimes. Both plaintiffs were arrested as a result of the incident. Plaintiff Paula Ohle was arrested on trespassing and battery charges, and her son Justin Ohle was arrested on trespassing and resisting an officer without violence. According to police reports, the plaintiffs became very upset after store security refused to let them return the television and Paula Ohle punched the security officer. However, the State Attorney’s Office dropped charges against Paula Ohle saying that the charges were not suitable for prosecution. Justin Ohle’s charges were dropped after completion of a pre-trial diversion program.
Based upon this report, it is unclear whether or not the security officer was an employee or had been performing duties as an independent contractor of Wal-Mart. The status of an individual who performs work related duties for a company or business is an important factor when attempting to seek recovery for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. However, a Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer knows that there are viable legal doctrines in which individuals can seek in order to recover damages for injuries sustained in a similar incident.
Most Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawsuits of this nature involve some form of negligence. And a civil action can be commenced against a company or business based upon the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. Under this legal principle, an employer can be held vicariously liable for any tortious acts which are committed by its employees during the scope of his or her employment. In other words, when an employee commits a tort against a customer, or business invitee, the courts can impose liability upon the employer. A customer is a business invitee when he or she visits the place of business for the purposes of conferring a legitimate monetary or business benefit to the business owner.
Although generally, there is a no-liability rule in cases that involve businesses and independent contractors; however, there are exceptions to this rule. And, Fort Lauderdale negligence attorneys can help individuals recover damages in a civil action when the tortious acts are committed from the actions of independent contractors. This type of claim arises when liability can be imputed directly to the employer due to the employer’s own negligence. For example, when the employer is negligent in hiring a competent contractor.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a similarly situated incident you should speak with a Fort Lauderdale employee assault attorney who can advise you whether or not you have a legal claim to recover damages for any injuries or harm which you have sustained.
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