IN COURT OF APPEALS
Bankers Life and Casualty Company, et al.,
Filed June 26, 2007
Beltrami County District Court
File No. C2-03-2137
George L. Duranske, III, Duranske Law Firm, 1435 Anne Street Northwest, P.O. Box 1383, Bemidji, MN 56619-1383 (for appellant)
Bradley J. Betlach, David A. James, Halleland Lewis Nilan & Johnson, P.A., 600 U.S. Bank Plaza South, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
S Y L L A B U S
1. To set forth a legally sufficient claim of negligent hiring, the complaint must allege actual physical injury or that the employee posed a threat of physical injury.
2. Absent actual physical injury or a threat of physical injury posed by the employee, an allegation that employee misconduct caused emotional harm to another is insufficient to satisfy the physical-injury requirement of a negligent-hiring or negligent-supervision claim.
O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges the district court’s dismissal of his claims for negligent hiring, training, and supervision against respondents, the employer and supervisor of an employee who allegedly defrauded him. Because the district court properly applied the law, we affirm.
Appellant Arnold Johnson is a vulnerable adult as defined by Minn. Stat. § 609.232 (2006). Defendant Shannon Peterson was an insurance agent for respondent Bankers Life and Casualty Company (Bankers). Respondent Richard Groom was responsible for training and supervising Peterson.
In 2003, Johnson brought an action against Peterson, alleging that she made false representations while employed as an insurance agent for Bankers to induce him to transfer $104,000 to her. The complaint alleged that Peterson represented that the money was to be used for medical emergencies that Peterson or members of her family faced and that it “was necessary because of her dire financial situation.”
In January 2006, Johnson amended the complaint to join Bankers and Richard Groom, alleging negligent hiring, training, and supervision. Along with economic damages, the complaint alleged that “as a result of the stress and anxiety of these events [Johnson] ha[d] developed medical complications including heart problems and anxiety related disorders.”
Bankers moved for
a judgment on the pleadings under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) for failure to
state a claim. Groom brought a similar
motion. Bankers and Groom argued that
Did the district court err by dismissing on the pleadings the claims of negligent hiring, negligent training, and negligent supervision against respondents?
that the district court erred by dismissing on the pleadings his claims against
Bankers and Groom. We examine a
dismissal under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) de novo, to determine whether the
complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for relief. Bodah
v. Lakeville Motor Express, Inc., 663 N.W.2d 550, 553 (
A. Negligent Training
asserts, among other things, that Bankers and Groom “negligently failed to
properly train” defendant Shannon Peterson.
B. Negligent Supervision or Negligent Hiring
Johnson’s complaint asserts that Bankers and Groom “negligently failed to properly screen Defendant Shannon Peterson for employment shortly before the theft from [Johnson], and failed to properly . . . supervise Defendant Shannon Peterson, which said acts contributed to the embezzlement and theft of money from [Johnson].”
claims are premised on an employer’s duty to control employees and prevent them
from intentionally or negligently inflicting personal injury. See Semrad
v. Edina Realty, Inc., 493 N.W.2d 528, 534 (
claims are likewise predicated on the fact that it should be foreseeable that
an employee posed a threat of physical injury to others. Ponticas
v. K.M.S. Invs., 331 N.W.2d 907, 911 (
Semrad, Bruchas, and Yunker support our conclusion that a negligent hiring claim, like a negligent supervision claim, requires that the employer knew or should have known that the employee was violent or aggressive and might engage in injurious conduct. Economic injury is not sufficient. Our conclusion is supported by the underlying purpose of section 317 of the Restatement of Torts to “unambiguously limit the scope of section 317 to a duty to prevent an employee from inflicting personal injury upon a third person or to prevent the infliction of bodily harm by use or misuse of the employer’s chattels.” Bruchas, 553 N.W.2d at 443 (quotations omitted). Thus, a complaint for negligent hiring must allege that it was foreseeable either that the employee posed a threat of physical injury, or that the employee inflicted a physical injury.
In his complaint, Johnson alleged misconduct that was economic, that is, the “embezzlement and theft of money,” and that “as a result of the stress and anxiety of these events [he] developed medical complications including heart problems and anxiety related disorders.” Johnson did not allege that Peterson was “violent or aggressive and might engage in injurious conduct” and did not allege a physical injury or that Peterson posed a threat of a physical injury. The complaint only alleges emotional distress that may have caused heart problems and anxiety disorders. But emotional distress is not a physical injury. See, e.g. Ludwig v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 98 F. Supp. 2d 1057, 1072 (D. Minn. 2000) (applying Minnesota law and concluding that appellant had “not alleged the type of injury necessary to maintain such claims, namely, bodily injury or the threat of bodily injury,” despite allegations that she experienced emotional distress and resulting physical symptoms). Thus, the complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted and dismissal was proper.
D E C I S I O N