S.C. SC won't rehear negligent hiring case against Wal-Mart

Jessica M. Karmasek May 4, 2011, 10:22am

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Legal Newsline) - The South Carolina Supreme Court last month said it will not reconsider its decision to not hear a case in which retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was accused of negligently hiring and retaining an employee with a criminal history.

In an April 21 order, the Court explained that it had previously granted plaintiff Maria A. Hollins' request for a writ of certiorari to review the state appeals court's Dec. 22, 2008 decision in favor of Wal-Mart. Hollins had appealed from a jury verdict in favor of the superstore, which the appeals court later affirmed.

Hollins had filed the action on behalf of her 10-year-old daughter, who is referred to in court documents as Jane Doe.

While her mother and sister shopped in another area of a Wal-Mart on Forest Drive in Columbia, Doe browsed through merchandise in the electronics department. There, a Wal-Mart employee, named only as Randall in court documents, allegedly touched Doe's private parts and began masturbating in her presence.

On two previous occassions Randall allegedly exposed himself to young girls while working for Wal-Mart. However, according to witnesses and other testimony, the incidents occurred off Wal-Mart property, without the store's knowledge and when he was not working and dressed in plain clothes. Thus, the store was never contacted.

In fact, following one arrest, Randall asked for and received a leave of absence from Wal-Mart. But he never offered the store a reason for his request.

The jury concluded that the incidents didn't show Wal-Mart's actual or constructive knowledge of their employee's criminal history, and found in favor of Wal-Mart. The appeals court agreed.

In March, after briefing and oral argument, the state's high court dismissed the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. Hollins filed a petition for rehearing. Wal-Mart moved to strike the petition.

Court rules prohibit petitions for rehearing from the denial of a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals.

According to the Court's order last month, "a dismissal of a writ of certiorari as improvidently granted is equivalent to the denial of a petition for a writ of certiorari since both dispositions indicate this Court has determined there is no need to discuss or further review the merits of the case.

"Accordingly, no petition for rehearing is permitted from a dismissal of a writ of certiorari as improvidently granted."

Therefore, the Court granted the store's motion to strike the petition for rehearing.

Following the incident, Wal-Mart reportedly changed its practices and began conducting criminal background checks on its new hires.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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