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Paralyzed woman’s claim against security guard’s company proceeds

December 8, 2015

Whether a security guard, who shot a woman during an argument while he was on duty, was acting to further his employer’s business when he shot her is a matter that should be decided by a judge or jury, the Indiana Supreme Court held Tuesday.

Stacy Knighten sued Donnell Caldwell, his employer Davis Security, and the East Chicago Housing Authority after Caldwell shot Knighten in the back with his handgun after they got into a confrontation near the guard shack of the housing complex where Caldwell worked as a security guard. Knighten and Caldwell were romantically involved. He allowed her to use his car to go to the liquor store and she returned to the housing complex intoxicated. At some point in the confrontation, she damaged the entrance gate to the complex. Knighten was paralyzed from the waist down from the shooting.

At issue in Stacy Knighten v. East Chicago Housing Authority, Individually and d/b/a West Calumet Complex, Davis Security Service, LLC, and Donnell Caldwell, 45S04-1512-CT-686, is whether the trial court and Court of Appeals erred in granting Davis Security’s motion for summary judgment on Knighten’s claim for negligent hiring and supervision.

Her case is premised on the doctrine of respondeat superior, under which Davis Security who is not liable because of its own acts, could be held liable for wrongful acts Caldwell committed within the scope of his employment.

There is conflicting evidence as to what Caldwell’s duties and responsibilities were as security guard. Davis Security asserted that his position at the guard shack included traffic control and he was only allowed to monitor traffic and allow in residents and authorized individuals. Caldwell testified he was only allowed to monitor traffic. Justice Robert Rucker pointed out that Davis Security used the word “included,” and the contract between the housing authority and Davis Security shows that armed security guards would also work to deter theft of property and threatening or unruly conduct.

Caldwell said his supervisor told him he should not be armed, but five months before Caldwell shot Knighten, Davis Security informed him that his handgun permit had expired and he needed proof that it was current.

There are genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment, the justices held in reversing the trial court and remanding for further proceedings.

 

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