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Employer Liability for a Third Party Assault on an Employee

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Can I Sue My Employer If I Was Attacked at Work by a Non-Employee?

The general rule is that a private individual has no duty to protect others from criminal assault by third parties. However, this rule has a number of exceptions which may apply to the employer-employee relationship.

Exception 1: Special Relationship

There is a duty of care if the court finds that there is a "special relationship" between the parties and the harm is foreseeable. Courts are split as to whether an employer-employee relationship is considered a "special relationship." Foreseeability of harm is determined by whether the employer knew or should have known of facts which would reasonably suggest the risk of assault on the employee.

Exception 2: Employer's Knowledge of Danger

There is a duty of care owed to the employee if the employee is in imminent danger and this is known to the employer.

Exception 3: Failure to Warn

A duty of care is owed if the employer fails to warn the employee of an unreasonable risk of harm involved in the employment. 

Exception 4: Contractually or Voluntarily Assume a Duty to Protect

There is a duty of care if the employer voluntarily or contractually assumes a duty to protect another from the harmful acts of a third party. 

What Else Must the Injured Employee Show?

If one of the exceptions above applies, the injured employee must also show:

  • The likelihood of attack does not relate to an extensive geographic area or to a general type of business.
  • The threat of harm is particular to the employees and is not common to everyone in that specific area.
  • He did not assume the risk or contribute to his own injury.

Should I Seek an Attorney?

Personal injury cases can be very complicated and involved. An experienced personal injury attorney will assist you in protecting your rights. An attorney can guide you through the legal process and ensure service in your best interests.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-25-2014 02:57 PM PDT

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