The plaintiff, Davis is suing Dona Ana County. The plaintiff was a patient at Mesilla Valley Hospital (MVH) in their inpatient mental facility, while she was in their care one of the mental health technicians, Joseph Herrera sexually assaulted her. She is suing the County of Dona Ana, because Herrera used to be a detention sergeant for the county, while employed there he was found to have been sexually harassing and abusing female inmates.
His superiors Steele and Mochen were aware of his misconducts and were planning on suspending him, however prior to the suspension Herrera resigned. Upon his resignation Herrera asked his superiors for a letter of recommendation, he was given a letter of recommendation stating that he was an exemplary employee, and one that they would hire again. The legal issue in this case is to determine whether or not the county’s letter of recommendation cause third-party harm to the plaintiff, Davis?
Did the positive feedback in the letter cause MVH to hire someone who was potentially unsafe to their patients? (Walsh, 2009). Why does the court conclude that Dona Ana County could be held liable for negligent referral (misrepresentation)? In this case the court concluded that Dona Ana County could be held liable for a negligent referral on the basis that each citizen has a basic responsibility to not bring harm to one another, and to make every effort to stop harm from happening to someone.
In this case the County did not take the proper steps to ensure public safety. Without overly speculating on all the various scenarios that might or might not have played out had the County provided truthful information, at the end of the day the County not only omitted truth; which is misleading within itself, but they also falsified the information that was provided to Herrera’s future employers taking away their ability to make fully educated decisions about his employment. In this particular case is very similar, to California Supreme Court case regarding Randi W. here an employee was given a glowing letter of recommendation from his former employer at a school even though he was known to have a record of sexual misconduct, was then hired on at another school as vice-principle, he sexually abused a 13 year old.
In both these cases the previous employers mislead future employers with the omissions of very important information as well as lying about their actual employment behavior. In both cases innocent third-parties were harmed from this. The court recognized that this referral was negligent, because they failed to stop harm from happening to someone. Krasnow, 2013). Should it have mattered that the former employer’s investigation was not able to confirm all of the allegations against Herrera? Explain your answer. In this case Herrera’s employers were not able to conduct an investigation to the fullest due to the fact that when he was informed that a full investigation was going to be conducted and that he would be suspended, Herrera decided to first resign. Though a full investigation was not conducted the court’s decision to conclude that the County is liable for negligence is still valid.
The County had the option of remaining silent, had they remained silent MVH would have conduct their own background investigation more thoroughly, but because the County gave such praise filled recommendation MVH lacked their background check. The County became negligent when they falsified information, regardless of whether Herrera was actually found to have had any sexual misconduct, the fact that there were several allegations and complaints against him would make it so that he did not warrant any sort of letter of recommendation.
Due to the investigation not being fully executed it would make more sense that the County refrain from having any sort of opinion on Herrera’s performance rather than fabricating information. (Walsh, 2009). What practical implications does this decision hold? Are you convinced by the court’s claim that this ruling should not make employers more reluctant to provide references? Due to the County being sued for providing referrals, they might be reluctant along with other employers, to provide any sort of referral for future employment, because they may fear that they will be sued regardless of what they do.
However, the court claims that employers should not be worried about providing references, because as long as the information that is being provided is true than they are not at fault. Of course it does seem safer to just not provide a referral at all, but you do not want to punish those who have worked very hard at maintaining a good work history and reputation. In this situation the court would not have found fault had the
County just not provided a recommendation at all, if they would have just denied Herrera’s request for a letter of recommendation, they would not have been at fault for third-party harm to Davis. However, the fact that the County provided misleading information while withholding information that might have told of harmful behaviors, MVH might not have hired Herrera, and they would have had a chance to better protect their patient, but the County took that ability away from them. (Walsh, 2009).