In a 2-1 decision, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed a judgment that resulted in a $1 million verdict in punitive damages and a $163,327 in compensatory damages. The suit was brought against Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. for reckless conduct that allegedly caused a motor vehicle crash, injuring Fletcher McQueen. It was alleged that McQueen was injured because (1) Pan-Oceanic conceded it was liable for any negligence by its employee, Lavonta M. Green, and (2) the jury decided Green was not negligent.
Justice Mary L. Mikva dissented because she relied on the line of cases supplied by the majority – which concluded that “once an employer admits responsibility under respondeat superior, a plaintiff may not proceed against the employer on another theory of imputed liability such as negligent entrustment or negligent hiring,” Gant v. LU Transport Inc., 331 Ill.App.3d 924 (2002) – “as being at odds with several well-reasoned decisions of this court.”
And even if Gant should be followed, Justice Mikva believed “the majority unnecessarily and unfairly extends application of the rule in that case beyond its principled parameters.”