You Decide

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Factual Summary

As per the transcript, Coleman works for Software Inc., a Delaware based corporation that sells security equipment to businesses and bars. Coleman’s duties include traveling to prospective clients and meeting with representatives of the businesses in their sales division. During a sales trip to Smalltown, Colorado in March 2008, Coleman wanted to buy an anniversary present for his wife. Coleman went to the mall to buy the present. While at the mall, Coleman saw a ring that he really liked but could not afford. He decided to steal it. He then went to Jimmy’s Poor-Man’s Bar to meet with a client, John. Jimmy’s wasn’t a client of Coleman’s, but John didn’t like his customers to see him “doing business.” Coleman was talking with Jimmy about business when he spilled his drink all over the bar. That made him think about this cool trick where you put pure grain alcohol in your mouth, blow it out and light it. Coleman took a big drink, took out his lighter, and said, “Watch this!” He lit his lighter, blew the liquid and a fireball went through the room. The fireball hit Jimmy and killed him instantly. The bar also sustained a lot of damage. Software Inc. fired Coleman without even interviewing him to get his version of the events. Software Inc.’s handbook required all employees to be interviewed before termination. A week later, Coleman called John to make amends. When they met, Coleman said, "The company and I are so sorry about what happened. Let me take you out to dinner – Software Inc. will pay the bill." They went to a restaurant, and instantly got into an argument because John told Coleman he was fat. Coleman punched John in the eye, causing severe eye damage. Jimmy’s mother (his only heir), John, and Jimmy’s Poor-Man’s Bar (which was owned by five men, including Jimmy), sued Software Inc. for the damage caused by Coleman. Coleman sues Software Inc. for wrongful termination. Lastly, the jewelry store sued Software Inc. for the value of the ring.

Issue(s):


1.Should Coleman win his wrongful termination suit with Software Inc.? 2.Will Software Inc. be liable to the owners of Jimmy’s bar? 3.What about Jimmy’s mom? Does the same law apply to both cases? 4.Will John win his lawsuit against Software Inc. for his injuries? 5.Will Software Inc. be liable to the jewelry store for the value of the ring? 6.If you were Software Inc.’s CEO or head of HR, what policies would you implement to try to limit your liability for people such as Coleman?

Legal Concept(s)
1.Yes, Coleman wins his wrongful termination suit with Software Inc. on the grounds that if a principal’s or an agent’s termination of an agency contract breaches the contract, the other party can sue for damages for wrongful termination (Cheeseman, 2011). Although a complete handbook itself may not be a contract of employment, statements, provisions and promises in the handbook may be and often are part of the contract of employment. A handbook may not be a contract of employment, if it includes an obviously placed and clearly worded disclaimer stating that it is NOT A CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT (Collison, 2010). However, there are certain statements and policies in the handbook that may be considered contractual promises that become part of the employee’s employment contract. Such as: •Promising annual evaluations.

Promising paid vacation and paid holidays
Provisions and terms of health insurance benefits and other paid benefit plans. •Promising a multiple step discipline or dispute resolution procedure before terminating an employment for cause. (Collison, 2010)

2.Yes, Software Inc. is liable to the owners of Jimmy’s bar on the grounds that principals, Software Inc., are liable for the negligent conduct of agents acting within the scope of their employment (Cheeseman, 2011). This is based on the common law doctrine, respondeat superior, a rule where the employer is liable for the injuries caused by an employee who is working...
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