Cab Owner Raked Over Coals on Murdered Child

     (CN) – A taxicab company owner may be personally liable for hiring a known sex offender now accused of murdering a 12-year-old boy, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.
     Prosecutors say that Brian Douglas Horn lured 12-year-old Justin Bloxom into his cab in 2010 by sending the child text messages in which he posed as a girl.
     Horn, then 34, allegedly smothered Bloxom and dumped his body in the woods.
     As Horn awaits a criminal trial on the charge of first-degree murder, he also faces a civil complaint from the child’s mother, Amy Nicole Whitham Bloxom.
     The city of Shreveport, an insurance company and Horn’s boss David McFarlin dba Action Taxi are also named as defendants in the civil action.
     Though the Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeal originally found that McFarlin deserved summary judgment on the negligence claim, a sharply divided panel reversed last week after a rehearing.
     “McFarlin knew that Horn was a convicted and registered sex offender, having been convicted for felony sexual assault in Missouri, and before that in Louisiana for indecent behavior with a juvenile,” Judge John Larry Lolley wrote for the three-member majority.
     “From the facts discovered thus far, it appears that McFarlin chose to hire Horn, despite his knowledge of Horn’s proclivities,” Lolley added. “McFarlin lightly accepted the fact, personally chose to disregard the importance of the information, and gave Horn the protective shield of the taxi cab to pursue his victim.”
     The majority emphasized how McFarlin hired Horn for a job that holds a unique position in society.
     “Whereas most people, certainly children, would not get into a random vehicle with a complete stranger, custom tells us that a taxi is safe and dependable,” the 8-page ruling states. “This despite the fact that the passenger is at the complete and utter mercy of a perfect stranger, who has full dominion over the passenger, a virtual sitting duck.”
     The decision asks later: “Who has the control to ensure that the taxi cab driver is not dangerous? In this case, one person had control of that decision: McFarlin. One person made the decision that Horn, a known sex offender, could be entrusted with the public’s safety, the highest degree of care, even though his legal status reflected he could not be so trusted. McFarlin knowing that Horn was a dangerous person, still made the choice to set him loose among the public under the guise of a secure taxi cab. McFarlin’s gross misjudgment should not allow him the cover of the corporate shield that is allowed most corporate officers who make careless and unknowing mistakes.”
     McFarlin’s attorney Ronald Raney with Lunn Irion Salley argued that the risk Horn posed was not foreseeable, but the court disagreed.
     “In fact, placing a known sex offender in a taxi cab, with unfettered access and control over his passengers who assume they are in a position of safety is akin to placing the proverbial fox in the hen house,” Lolley wrote.
     “This employee had the ‘unique opportunity’ to commit the precise sort of tort McFarlin was informed Horn might commit,” he added. “This horrific case is intensely fact specific. In this particular case, for this particular employee, who was hired by McFarlin for the particular purpose of driving a cab, we believe there exists a genuine issue of whether McFarlin had a personal duty to Justin and, now, his mother. In fact, this case is the exception, not the rule, for which prior jurisprudence has allowed a crack, even a sliver, to pierce the corporate veil and find the corporate officer personally liable. We are willing to slip through that crack in this particular case and give the trial court the opportunity to open that door at trial. McFarlin’s overt degree of negligence should not allow him to stand in the shadows of the corporate veil to avoid personal liability for the murder of Justin Bloxom.”
     The dissenting members of the court, Judge D. Milton Moore and pro tempore Judge Fred Sexton, disagreed on this point.
     “The extraordinary and horrific nature of Horn’s acts is precisely what takes this case out of the ambit of the reasonably foreseeable,” Moore wrote (emphasis in original). “The defendant’s reasonable duty does not extend to all risks.”
     Within months of Bloxom’s murder, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law to forbid sex offenders from serving as bus, cab or limousine drivers. The law is called the Justin M. Bloxom Act.
     Moore notes that the court cannot use this law against McFarlin “because it was not on the books when McFarlin approved Horn’s hiring.”

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