Horvitz & Levy obtained a pre-trial appellate victory in a case where plaintiffs sought over $30 million in damages from our client, an employer whose employee’s houseguests were victims of a mass shooting in the employee’s home. After the trial court denied the defendant’s summary judgment, Horvitz & Levy prepared a successful petition for writ of mandate, persuading the California Court of Appeal that the employer was entitled to summary judgment because it owed no legal duty to protect the victims from third-party criminal conduct occurring in the employee’s home.
Without warning, a 26-year-old war veteran with PTSD shot several people inside his mother’s home. Among the injured were his mother’s coworker and a business associate, both of whom claimed to be involved in work-related activities with the mother at the time. The coworker and business associate sued the mother and her employer, claiming that the employer had a duty to protect them from the shooter. The trial court denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment, finding disputed factual issues prevented the court from resolving the question of the employer’s duty.
Horvitz & Levy represented the employer and convinced the Court of Appeal to grant the employer’s petition for writ relief and order the trial court to enter summary judgment for the employer. In a published opinion, the court held no evidence showed the employer had control of its employee’s private home, and absent control the employer could not be liable for injuries suffered in the home. The fact that the employer derived a financial benefit when the employee worked at home did not mean the employer controlled the home. The court further held that the “special relationship” between an employer and employee, which may give rise to a duty to protect from third-party crime in some cases, did not extend to an after-hours event in an employee’s home. The court held that even if there were a “special relationship,” sound public policy precluded imposing a duty on employers to protect their employees and guests from third-party crime in employees’ private homes. Otherwise, employers would need to investigate and manage employees’ homes and personal relationships or risk tort liability for in-home crime.