CAROL Holaday and her husband Jim Willcoxson were employed by Colonial Van & Storage, Inc., a moving and storage company in Fresno, California. Holaday was a long-haul supervisor and dispatcher. She worked in Colonial’s Fresno office but was allowed to work from home. Holaday often had colleagues come to her house for social and professional reasons. Willcoxson was a colonial trade representative.
Kyle Holaday, the 26-year-old son of Holaday and Wilcoxson, was a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD for which he was being treated. He was unemployed and living with his parents.He had a history of self-harm and misuse of firearms.
Crystal Dominguez was a colonial employee and worked with Holaday. She visited Holaday’s house frequently and considered Kyle a friend. Rachel Schindler knew Holaday through business, had been to her house a few times, but only met Kyle briefly.
On the evening of March 24, 2017, Holaday and Willcoxson hosted a dinner party at their Fresno home for Dominguez and Schindler. Schindler brought her five-month-old daughter with her. The four adults socialized, but also networked and performed job-related tasks. Kyle greeted the guests as they arrived, sat in the living room and looked at his cell phone.
Willcoxson went into the kitchen while the three women were talking in the living room. Kyle left the living room and came back with a handgun and started shooting. He shot and killed Willcoxson and a family dog and injured Holaday, Dominguez and Schindler. A bullet grazed the baby’s ear. Kyle fled the house and was hit by a moving car as he ran down the street. The police arrived and arrested him.
Dominguez and Schindler both filed a lawsuit against Holaday and his employer, Colonial, for personal injury. Dominguez alleged negligent supervision against Holaday and alleged that Colonial was vicariously liable for Holaday’s misconduct pursuant to the responsible superior doctrine (i.e., a doctrine that an employer is legally liable wrongful acts of an employee, if such acts occur in the course of employment).
Colonial asked the court to dismiss the case against her. Dominguez and Schindler argued that an employer has a positive obligation to provide employees with a safe workplace, which in this case included the employee’s home as an offsite workplace. The Court of Appeal therefore had to answer this question: does the employer have an obligation to ensure that an off-site meeting place for co-workers, such as an employee’s private residence, is safe from third-party criminal damage? Citing reasons of public order and confidentiality, the Court answered: No. [The lower court was then ordered to dismiss the case against the employer.]
However, the case against Holaday remained. The question then is: what is the owner’s duty of care towards visitors to its premises?
California law generally requires landlords to provide reasonably safe conditions for those who visit their properties. Owners are responsible for maintaining their properties to avoid the risk of accidents and injuries.
However, simple injuries to guests on the premises do not mean the owners are automatically liable. The injured person and their attorneys will need to prove that the injury was caused by an unsafe condition on the premises. Ultimately, it will take the combined effort of technical experts, attorneys and medical providers working together to present a true picture of the mechanics of the crash and resulting injuries in order to recover adequate compensation for The wounded.
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The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries on this topic. All inquiries are confidential and free of charge. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]