Thursday, January 29, 2009
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America cannot be held liable for the actions of a volunteer mentor, but there local affiliate can be
We have discussed the difficulty in determining who is and who is not an employee many times on this blog, and in particular with respect to whether volunteers can be treated as employees. Now comes another twist, can companies be liable in tort for the actions of volunteers. A recent New York lower court decision held that that parent companies could not. Lamarche v. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, ___Misc. 3d___(Richmond Co. Jan. 23, 2009). The reasoning was one of duty. The court held that a parent organization had no duty to a member of the public serviced by its NYC affiliate.
However, that NYC affiliate could be responsible for the actions of one of its volunteers. The court essentially applied a negligent hiring type of analysis and concluded that summary judgment to the defendant was inappropriate because of the volunteer's alcoholism and emotional past.
A New York Law Journal article about this case is available here (registration required).
Mitchell H. Rubinstein