Woman’s Rape on the Job May Leave City Liable

     (CN) – An Ohio woman can sue the city of North Ridgeville for hiring a man who later raped her on the job, the state Supreme Court ruled.
     Lisa Vacha had been working at the city’s French Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant for four years when Mayor G. David Gillock encouraged Charles Ralston, the father of two of his grandchildren, to apply for an open position there in 2004.
     At the time, Ralston was unemployed and behind on his child support. Though Gillock knew his daughter had called the police on Ralston twice for domestic violence, he did not know that Ralston had a criminal record.
     Ralston was convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, assault and disorderly conduct between 1994 and 1999, but he truthfully stated on his job application that he did not have a felony record.
     Plant superintendent Donald Daley did not ask Ralston if he had a criminal record.
     During the last six months of their two years working together, Vacha and Ralston had the 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, alone and unsupervised.
     On June 2, 2006, Vacha let Ralston drive her truck during their shift to buy beer. When Ralston returned, he raped and assaulted Vacha. She reported the incident, and Ralston was convicted and sent to prison.
     Vacha sued Ralston for the attack and infliction of emotional distress in 2008. She also filed claims against the city of North Ridgeville for negligent hiring, vicarious liability, reckless hiring and supervision, and employer intentional tort.
     A Lorain County judge dismissed Vacha’s claim for vicarious liability, and an appellate panel then threw out the negligent hiring and reckless hiring claims after concluding that workers’ compensation law precluded them.
     North Ridgeville wanted the state Supreme Court to additionally hold it immune from the employer intentional tort action, but a four-justice majority of the high court kept the claim alive Thursday.
     “A civil action by an employee of a political subdivision alleging an intentional tort against his or her employer may fall within the (state law) exception to political subdivision immunity,” Justice Judith French wrote for the court.
     The two partly dissenting opinion complained that the remand order to determine immunity “is a vain act because there is no evidence that the city acted with deliberate intent to harm Vacha.”
     “For that reason, I would dismiss her complaint for failing to establish a claim upon which relief can be granted,” Justice Sharon French wrote, joined by Justice Terrence O’Donnell.

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