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Detention Center Blues

 

It is often said that without providing good leadership and role modeling, the best of management systems can fall apart. When leadership is corrupt, or feckless, even the best of employees lose faith in the management, and eventually, leave. Also without leadership, chaos can often ensue with employees who are left to manage themselves. This is one of those cases…
Amanda Motes worked for the Curry County Adult Detention Center as a booking specialist. She worked there for about five weeks when she was injured. At work, she was responsible for the “overall operation of the booking room and file room at the detention center.” All her direct supervisors and officials in her chain of command worked during the day. “[T]he most senior employees on duty at night were sergeants who worked in the detention chain of command.” The sergeants acted as supervisors for the junior employees from all departments.
Sergeant Jayson Cloud was a supervisory sergeant on the night shift. He had worked at the center for about three years. He had been disciplined a few times since he started at the center— “he had been counseled twice for use of obscene or abusive language toward inmates and staff, suspended for conduct unbecoming a county employee, counseled for overriding facility doors while inmates were present, and reprimanded for failing to report for shifts.” “Curry County . . . had promulgated and distributed a safety manual to all county employees, including those employed at the detention center. The manual prohibited horseplay by employees and advised that horseplay ‘may subject’ employees to disciplinary action at the discretion of department heads.” Both Motes and Cloud signed statements that they read and understood the manual.
There were frequent periods of downtime at night. Motes and Cloud had a pattern of interaction during the downtime. It was apparently lighthearted. Motes said that Cloud “made it his life goal to terrorize [her] at any given moment.” For example, they tried to mark each other with markers and spray each other with bug spray. Motes said she had told a supervisor that Cloud irritated her. “The supervisor . . . brushed her off, observing that ‘that was how [Cloud] was.’” Motes noticed other workers engaging in horseplay. The County representative denied being aware of the culture at the center.
One night, work was slow. Cloud and Motes tried to mark each other with markers. Cloud then pretended to spray her with bug spray. Motes chased after him. She tripped and broke her right ankle and fibula. The whole series of events took only a few minutes. Motes falsified the accident report and Cloud signed the report. The County reviewed the surveillance videos and realized that the report was false and fired both Cloud and Motes. (PLEASE SEE RESEARCH BELOW TO READ THE ENTIRE CASE.)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION:
1. Is this a case of Respondent Superior? Why or why not? Explain your answer.
2. Under the Common-Law Defenses Available to an Employer When Sued for Work-Related Injuries, what specific legal defense could the Curry County Adult Detention Center use in this case? Could there be more than one defense and why?

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