By Todd Costa
In the spring of 2011, a shocking scandal broke out at Penn State University, when it was discovered that long-time assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky had molested a number of boys on the school’s campus. Though a Pennsylvania court sentenced Sandusky to a maximum of 60 years in prison in October of 2012, a number of legal questions still linger today, especially regarding the culpability of the university itself.
One of the anonymous victims of Sandusky’s actions who did not settle with the university outside of court and referred to as ‘John Doe 6’, filed a claim against Penn State in the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The charges include vicarious liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. The university then filed a motion to specifically dismiss the former and latter charges.
This brings up the interesting question of responsibility for employee misconduct in the workplace. Vicarious liability is a form of guilt that arises when a third party has the duty to prevent another party from committing an unlawful activity. Furthermore, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is oftentimes liable for the actions of its employee. Naturally in the case of Penn State, questions have surfaced regarding the university’s responsibility to prevent the Sandusky’s actions.