Flores v. Autozone West, Inc., 161 Cal. App. 4th 373 (2008)

Juan Rodriguez Flores was injured by Erwin Gomez, an Autozone employee, when Gomez struck Flores on the head with a steel pipe. Flores sued Autozone for assault and battery based on a respondeat superior theory and for negligent hiring and related torts. The trial court granted Autozone’s motion for summary judgment, but the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment, holding that an employee’s physical eruption, stemming from his interaction with a customer, may be a predictable risk of retail employment. The Court affirmed summary adjudication in favor of Autozone of the direct liability negligence claims on the ground that Autozone did not have a legal duty to conduct a background check or to administer a personality screening test of Gomez before hiring him or to have terminated his employment because he had raised his voice at a customer three years earlier. The Court also affirmed dismissal of Flores’ punitive damages claim against Autozone. Cf. Lyons v. Fire Ins. Exch., 161 Cal. App. 4th 880 (2008) (insurance carrier properly denied coverage for claims arising out of alleged sexual attack and false imprisonment).