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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Public employer may be liable for damages suffered as a result of negligent supervision and negligent retention of its employees

Public employer may be liable for damages suffered as a result of negligent supervision and negligent retention of its employees
Gray v Schenectady City School Dist., 2011 NY Slip Op 05925, Appellate Division, Third Department

One of the defendant in this action, Steven Raucci, was employed by the Schenectady City School District) as its director of facilities. Raucci, however, did not appeared in this action as “In April 2010, he was convicted of 18 felony counts, including several for conduct against plaintiffs and their property during the time when he was employed by [Schenectady City School District].”

The Grays’ complaint alleged Raucci and the school district inflicted intentional emotional distress. In addition, their compliant charged the school district with “negligent 

In this appeal the school district argued that Supreme Court should have dismissed the complaint with respect to it.
The Appellate Division agreed in part, noting that “a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress” requires the plaintiff to allege more than conduct that causes inconvenience or embarrassment, even if such conduct continues for a protracted period of time. The complaint, said the court, must also allege that the defendant's conduct was "'so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency . . . and [was] utterly intolerable in a civilized community."

Although the court found that “Liberally construed,” the Grays’ allegations were sufficient to state a cause of action of intentional infliction of emotional distress against Raucci, the Appellate Division held that the school district’s “mere inaction after receiving complaints about Raucci's behavior” cannot be considered the type of extreme and outrageous conduct that is "utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Further, said the court, Schenectady could be held vicariously liable for Raucci’s tortious actions only if he committed them in furtherance of school district’s business and within the scope of his employment.

Thus, concluded the Appellate Division, Supreme Court should have granted the part of defendant's motion seeking dismissal of the first cause of action against it. 

Supreme Court, however, properly denied the part of the school district’s motion seeking to dismiss the causes of action alleging negligent supervision and negligent retention of Raucci. 

The Appellate Division explained that such claims require allegations that the school district knew or should have known of “its employee's propensity to engage in the conduct that caused the [Grays’] injuries, and that the alleged negligent supervision or retention [of Raucci] was a proximate cause of those injuries.” 

In this instance the Grays alleged that Raucci vandalized their property and threatened their personal safety. Such alleged conduct, said the court, certainly appears to fall outside the scope of his employment. Further, the Grays alleged that Raucci used the school district’s computers, material and personnel to harass and intimidate them and that, even after Schenectady was informed of Raucci's conduct targeting them, it failed to investigate or discipline him. 

The Appellate Division concluded that the complaint filed by the Grays “sufficiently alleged that [Schenectady’s] negligent supervision or retention of Raucci permitted him continued access to the means to carry out his actions, which caused [the Grays] injuries.” Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court “correctly refused to dismiss the second and third causes of action.” 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

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A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

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Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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