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Brown v. Brown - 478 Mich. 545, 739 N.W.2d 313 (2007)

Rule:

The Supreme Court of Michigan reviews de novo a decision to grant a motion for summary disposition. It reviews a motion brought under MCR 2.116(C)(10) by considering the pleadings, admissions, and other evidence submitted by the parties in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Summary disposition is appropriate if there is no genuine issue regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Facts:

Plaintiff Lisa Brown was a security guard who had been assigned by her employer, Burns International Security (Burns), to provide security for defendant Samuel-Whittar Steel (Steel). Michael Brown, an employee of Steel, and no relation to Lisa Brown, raped Lisa Brown at defendant's Detroit facility. Michael Brown had had no prior criminal record, no history of violent behavior, and certainly no history indicating that he harbored a propensity to commit rape. However, Lisa Brown alleges that Michael Brown routinely made crude, sexually explicit comments to her when they interacted at defendant's facility. 

Issue:

On the basis of the employer Steel's alleged knowledge of the sexually explicit comments made by Michael Brown to Lisa Brown, can Steel, as Michael Brown’s employer, be held liable for the rape committed by his employer?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that where an employee has no prior criminal record or history of violent behavior indicating a propensity to rape, an employer is not liable solely on the basis of the employee's lewd comments for a rape perpetrated by that employee if those comments failed to convey an unmistakable, particularized threat of rape. Because Brown had not committed prior acts that would have put his employer on notice of Brown's propensity to commit rape and Brown's workplace speech was not predictive of this criminal act, Steel cannot be held liable for the rape.

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