SW Legal Educational Publishing

Witnessing Workplace Shooting Did Not Create Action for Emotional Distress
Description Appeals court upheld a verdict for a security firm that failed to retrieve an electronic access card from an employee who, after being fired, returned to shoot former coworkers. The security firm could not reasonably foresee that this could happen and cause emotional distress to a worker who witnessed the shooting.
Topic Torts
Key Words Emotional Distress; Foreseeability; Workplace Shooting
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Eight months after his dismissal, Antilak, a former employee of Sumitomo, returned to his former workplace with a gun, killed two employees, wounded others, and then killed himself. Budd provided security services for Sumitomo, which included electronic access cards. While Antilak had surrendered his badge, he used a temporary access card that he had kept to gain access to the building. Various victims of the shooting sued Sumitomo and Budd. Sumitomo settled out of court; the trial court dismissed the claims against Budd. Shipley, who had witnessed some of the attack, appealed.
Decision Affirmed. The emotional distress suffered by an employee as a result of the shootings of other employees was not the reasonably foreseeable consequence of any negligent conduct on the part of the company. Hence, Shipley did not establish a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Budd could not know that failure to retrieve the access card could result in this shooting; the possibility was too remote.
Citation Robblee v. Budd Services, Inc., 525 S.E.2d 847 (Ct. App., N.C., 2000)

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