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Ford v. Revlon, Inc. - 153 Ariz. 38

Rule:

Where there is independent negligence on the part of the master, the master may be liable, apart from his derivative liability for his servant's wrongful acts.

Facts:

Plaintiff sought recovery of damages from her supervisor and from defendant employer for sexual harassment. Defendant employer failed to follow its policies in investigating plaintiff employee's complaint of sexual harassment by her supervisor. The jury found the supervisor not liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, but did find the employer liable for that tort. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the employee but the intermediate appellate court reversed. The employee appealed.

Issue:

Was the defendant employer independently liable for damages when it failed to follow its policies in investigating the employee's complaint for sexual harassment against her supervisor?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court vacated the decision of the intermediate appellate court and reinstated the trial court's judgment for plaintiff employee against defendant employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court held that the employer's failure to investigate the employee's complaint, contrary to its policies regarding sexual harassment, was independent of her supervisor's abusive treatment. The employer's conduct was extreme or outrageous, its reckless disregard of the supervisor's conduct made it nearly certain that emotional distress would occur, and emotional distress did occur.

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