By Lester Rosen, ESR President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog

According to a report from KECI NBC 13 in Missoula, Montana, the family of a volunteer firefighter killed in a 2008 crash has filed a lawsuit claiming that FedEx, the world’s largest express transportation company, and the owner of the semi truck that killed the victim were negligent in hiring the driver of the semi truck and should have known that the driver was “incompetent and unfit to perform the job that he was hired to perform based on his horrendous driving record.”

The volunteer firefighter had stopped to help another motorist and was sitting in his truck on the shoulder of an Interstate highway with his emergency lights on to create a safety zone for a one-vehicle rollover when the driver of the semi truck – who was later accused of driving too fast for conditions – slammed into the firefighter’s truck, KECI reports. The driver of the semi is facing a negligent homicide charge and pleaded not guilty. The matter is still pending in court.

The lawsuit filed by the family of the deceased volunteer firefighter includes a claim of “Negligent Hiring and Retention” against both FedEx and the owner of the semi truck claiming that the Defendants:

  • Knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, that driver of the semi truck was incompetent and unfit to perform the job that he was hired to perform based on his horrendous driving record.
  • Had a duty of reasonable care owed to Plaintiffs to hire and retain competent, qualified, and safe employees.
  • Breached their duty of reasonable care by hiring and retaining the driver who was incompetent, unfit, and dangerous.
  • Failed to exercise reasonable care, which was the proximate cause of injuries and death and damages suffered by Plaintiff.

To read the full text of the lawsuit, click here. The matter is still pending in court.

Every employer carries the obligation – the duty – to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others when hiring, according to ‘The Safe Hiring Manual – The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Terrorists, and Imposters Out of Your Workplace,’ a comprehensive guide produced by background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR). The legal description of the duty of care – “due diligence” – means the employer must consider if a potential new employee represents a risk to others in view of the nature of the job.

If an employer fails to exercise due diligence in the hiring process and a person is harmed by an employee, that employer can be sued for damages in a civil lawsuit for failure to perform a legal duty. The name of the legal action is called “negligent hiring,” which is the flip side of “due diligence.” If an employer hires someone who they either knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known was dangerous, unfit, or not qualified for the position, the employer can be sued for negligent hiring if injuries or death occur.

Understanding how due diligence is associated with the liability for negligent hiring is critical for any employer. If a bad hire does something to force an employer to defend in court, then an employer must show how it took appropriate measures of due diligence. Employers that do not perform due diligence are sitting ducks for litigation, including attorneys’ fees and big damage awards.

Employers that implement and follow a Safe Hiring Program (SHP) show due diligence measures that are a powerful legal protection. While the cost of exercising due diligence through a SHP is usually very modest, employers need to measure the risk of hiring blind with the risk of litigation and attorney fees stemming from a single bad hiring decision that may cause injuries and death.

For more information on background checks and negligent hiring, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at