Brian Cooper was a regional manager for three employers: Home Depot USA, Inc., Grand Service, LLC, and Grand Flower Growers, Inc (the defendants). Cooper had a history of sexually harassing young female subordinates and it was known to the defendants. The victim in this case, Alicia Bromfield, was a teenager when she began working for the defendants.
Cooper would call Alisha his girlfriend, and yelled at her in front of customers, calling her names like â€œslutâ€ and â€œwhore.â€ Cooper also controlled Alishaâ€™s time away from work. If Cooper knew Alisha was going to spend her lunch break with a man, he would at times deny her lunch breaks. Additionally, Cooper required Alisha to come with him on business trips and stay in the same hotel room.
In 2012, when Alisha was pregnant, Cooper asked her to go to his sisterâ€™s wedding in Wisconsin with him. After Alisha refused, Cooper threatened to fire her or cut her hours if she did not go. Alisha went to the wedding. After the wedding, Cooper brought Alisha back to the hotel room he had rented for them. He asked her to be in a relationship with him. Alisha refused and Cooper strangled her to death.
Sherry Anicich, Alishaâ€™s mother, sued Home Depot and Grand, asserting that they were negligent under the theory of vicarious liability and their negligence led to Alishaâ€™s death at the hands of Cooper. The defendants argued, inter alia, that they could not be held liable for their agentâ€™s (Cooperâ€™s) actions because he had acted outside the scope of employment and off of defendantâ€™s premises. The district court agreed with the defendants and Alishaâ€™s mother appealed. How did the appellate court rule? What did the appellate court state was a recent trend in law concerning holding employers vicariously liable for their supervisory employeeâ€™s torts?