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Brown v. Long Romero.

2021 CO 67. No. 20SA429. Vicarious Liability—Negligence—Labor and Employment.

September 27, 2021


Plaintiff’s child died while plaintiff was giving birth at the Denver Center for Birth and Wellness (DCBW). Plaintiff and her husband (collectively, Brown) brought direct negligence claims against DCBW and one it its employees, but they did not assert vicarious liability. Nevertheless, DCBW acknowledged vicarious liability. The trial court then dismissed the negligence claim, citing McHaffie v. Bunch, 891 S.W.2d 822 (Mo. 1995), which held that “where an employer acknowledges vicarious liability for its employee’s negligence, a plaintiff’s direct negligence claims against the employer are barred.”

The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the “McHaffie Rule” applies even where the plaintiff chooses not to assert vicarious liability for an employee’s negligence and, instead, asserts only direct negligence claims against the employer. The Court held that it does not. Accordingly, the Court made the rule to show cause absolute, vacated the trial court’s grant of partial judgment on the pleadings, and remanded the case with directions to reinstate Brown’s negligent hiring claim.

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