Summary judgment is granted in cases where there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”…
Cockrell contends there is a genuine issue of material of fact regarding whether Officer James was acting in the course and scope of his employment with the District during the incidents which occurred on the nights of June 28 and June 30, 1998. Cockrell argues Officer James’s conduct, although inappropriate, did not rise to the level of criminal conduct. Cockrell contends Officer James’s action of hugging Cockrell was similar to an officer consoling a victim of a crime. Cockrell does admit that Officer James’s action of kissing her is more difficult to view as within the course and scope of his employment…
The District argues that although Officer James acted within the course and scope of his duties when he arrested Cockrell, his later conduct, which was intended to satisfy his lustful desires, was outside the scope of his employment with it.…
“Mississippi law provides that an activity must be in furtherance of the employer’s business to be within the scope and course of employment.” [Citation] To be within the course and scope of employment, an activity must carry out the employer’s purpose of the employment or be in furtherance of the employer’s business. [Citations] Therefore, if an employee steps outside his employer’s business for some reason which is not related to his employment, the relationship between the employee and the employer “is temporarily suspended and this is so ‘no matter how short the time and the [employer] is not liable for [the employee’s] acts during such time.’” “An employee’s personal unsanctioned recreational endeavors are beyond the course and scope of his employment.” [Citation]
[In one case cited,] Officer Kerry Collins, a Jackson Police officer, was on duty when he came upon the parked car of L.T., a minor, and her boyfriend, who were about to engage in sexual activity. [Citation] Officer Collins instructed L.T. to take her boyfriend home, and he would follow her to make sure she followed his orders. After L.T. dropped off her boyfriend, Officer Collins continued to follow her until he pulled L.T. over. Officer Collins then instructed L.T. to follow him to his apartment or else he would inform L.T.’s parents of her activities. L.T. followed Officer Collins to his apartment where they engaged in sexual activity. Upon returning home, L.T. told her parents everything that had happened. L.T. and her parents filed suit against Officer Collins, the City of Jackson and the Westwood Apartments, where Officer Collins lived rent free in return for his services as a security guard.…The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City finding that Officer Collins acted outside the course and scope of his employment with the Jackson Police Department. [Citation]
In [Citation] the plaintiff sued the Archdiocese of New Orleans for damages that allegedly resulted from his sexual molestation by a Catholic priest. The Fifth Circuit found that the priest was not acting within the course and scope of his employment. The Fifth Circuit held that “smoking marijuana and engaging in sexual acts with minor boys” in no way furthered the interests of his employer.
The Southern District of Mississippi and the Fifth Circuit, applying Mississippi law, have held that sexual misconduct falls outside the course and scope of employment. There is no question that Officer James was within the course and scope of his employment when he first stopped Cockrell for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. However, when Officer James diverted from his employment for personal reasons, he was no longer acting in the furtherance of his employer’s interests…Therefore, the District cannot be held liable…for the misconduct of Officer James which occurred outside the course and scope of his employment.
- How can this case and Lyon v. Carey ( Employer’s Liability for Employee’s Intentional Torts: Scope of Employment ) be reconciled? Both involve an agent’s unacceptable behavior—assault—but in Lyon the agent’s actions were imputed to the principal, and in Cockrell the agent’s actions were not imputed to the principal.
- What is the controlling rule of law governing the principal’s liability for the agent’s actions?
- The law governing the liability of principals for acts of their agents is well settled. Thus the cases turn on the facts. Who decides what the facts are in a lawsuit?