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Under the theory of respondeat superior, an employer may be found liable for torts committed by its employee while acting in the scope of employment. Respondeat superior only applies when the relation of master and servant, employer and employee or principal and agent is shown to exist between the wrongdoer and the person sought to be charged for the result of the wrong. In assessing whether an employer/employee relationship exists between two parties, Maryland courts consider: (1) the power to select and hire the employee, (2) the payment of wages, (3) the power to discharge, (4) the power to control the employee's conduct, and (5) whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer.
While being placed under arrest by officers with the Prince George's County Police Department at Iverson Mall, plaintiff Byron Jordan was punched in the face by a mall security officer employed by Pro50. Jordan thus filed a claim of battery against defendants Iverson Mall Limited Partnership (“IMLP”) and Defendant Professional 50 States Protection of DC LLC ("Pro50") and a claim arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Prince George's County on a theory of bystander liability. On January 24, 2018, the jury returned a verdict finding no liability as to Prince George's County and its officers, but finding Defendants IMLP and Pro50 liable for battery and awarding compensatory and punitive damages against both.
Is IMLP liable to plaintiffs for the incident?
Plaintiffs argued that "IMLP cannot argue post-trial that it is not a proper party to this suit, because it waived that argument very early in this litigation." ECF No. 233 at 3. Plaintiffs further argued that "the record powerfully shows that IMLP is synonymous with Iverson Mall[,]" and goes on to reference "evidence presented at the damages portion of the trial that IMLP owned and operated Iverson Mall,” Finally, Plaintiffs referenced IMLP's answers to Plaintiffs' interrogatories as "stipulat[ing]" certain facts about the relationship between Pro50 and Iverson Mall. However, despite Plaintiffs' contentions, the issue here was not whether IMLP was the proper party for Plaintiffs to file suit against; rather, the issue was whether Plaintiffs introduced sufficient evidence at trial in their case-in-chief from which a jury could reasonably determine that IMLP was liable to the Plaintiffs. And the simple fact was that while there was ample discussion about the fact that this incident took place in or around Iverson Mall and invoked security guards who worked at the mall, at the conclusion of Plaintiffs' case-in-chief there had not been any reference to IMLP. as an entity. As such, a reasonable jury could not have determined that IMLP was liable to Plaintiffs, as there was no evidence that IMLP had any relationship with the Pro50 guards, or even owned Iverson Mall.