Employer Not Liable For Employee's Murderous Rage

May 20, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A home restoration company is not liable for the murder of a woman by a former employee.

>The Sedgwick County, Kansas jury found National Catastrophe Restoration Inc. (NCRI) to be not at fault in the death of Janice Vredenburg, who was beaten and stabbed to death by parolee Tanner Green on March 27, 2000, according to a report by the Wichita (Kansas) Eagle.

>Green was hired by NCRI in January 2000 and was part of a crew sent to Vredenburg’s home to clean up after a broken water hose on a washing machine flooded her basement. The crew completed the work six weeks before Vredenburg was killed.

>During the civil trial, lawyers for the slain teacher’s family argued that NCRI officials put Vredenburg in danger by not checking Green’s criminal background before hiring him.   Green testified at the trial that he lied on his application, saying he had been convicted of battery for protecting his sister against an abusive spouse.   However, while on the stand, Green admitted he actually was on parole for aggravated battery after attacking another woman while trying to steal a stereo from her van.

>Gary Austerman, who represented the company during the two-week trial, said the facts of the case supported his clients’ contention that they were not to blame for Vredenburg’s murder.   “I believe the jury listened to the evidence and came up with the proper verdict,” he said.

>Conversely, Gary Patterson, who represented Vredenburg’s children, said he was expecting a different outcome.   “We are frankly kind of stunned by the verdict,” he said.   “I hope that it doesn’t send the wrong message to the public at large that it’s now OK to hire convicted criminals to come into our homes.”

In an earlier criminal trial, Green was convicted of first-degree murder.   He is currently serving a sentence of 50 years without possibility of parole at Lansing Correctional Facility.