Company Not Liable for Off-Duty Worker Conduct

September 13, 2006 ( - An employer cannot be held liable for a worker's off-duty conduct because the company is not exercising control over the person when he is off the clock, the Texas Supreme Court has ruled.

The ruling, by Justice Paul Green, came in a case involving an employee of Loram Maintenance of Way, a  Minnesota firm that refurbishes railroad tracks.

According to the ruling,  El Paso police officer David Ianni had sued Loram over allegations it should be deemed responsible for the off-duty actions of employee Roger Tingle. The company knew about Tingle’s methamphetamine use and propensity for violence, including an incident where he was accused of threatening his wife’s friend with a knife, according to the decision.

One day, after talking with his co-workers about attacking his wife, Tingle allegedly forced her into a car and began to drive off, prompting his wife to jump out and scream for help. Ianni responded and was shot and seriously injured by Tingle.

Ianni sued Loram for not properly supervising Tingle and won $1.1 million in damages from a lower court – a decision that was affirmed on appeal. The company then asked the  Lone Star State’s high court to hear the case.

Green pointed out that the shooting did not take place until at least an hour after Tingle was already off duty, so there was no evidence that Loram was controlling him. The high court decided that knowledge of Tingle’s impaired state was not enough to create a duty in Loram to protect members of the public.

The case is Loram Maintenance of Way v. Ianni, Supreme Court of Texas, No. 04-0666 (6/30/06), and the ruling is here .