United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge
Brantley contends that her employer, American Airlines,
negligently supervised a co-worker, Darryl Strickland, who,
after sexually assaulting her at her home, assaulted her at
work. American Airlines filed a motion for summary judgment,
claiming that Ms. Brantley cannot show that American Airlines
proximately caused the assault upon her by Mr. Strickland at
work. American Airlines' motion does not meet the summary
judgment bar and must, therefore, be denied.
Brantley is a customer service agent for American Airlines at
the Philadelphia International Airport. Between August and
December of 2015, she worked at the Terminal B/C ticket
counter. Darryl Strickland was also employed by American
Airlines at the airport. He primarily worked in an
international terminal, but he regularly picked up extra
shifts and worked in other areas of the airport, including at
the domestic Terminal B/C ticket counter.
Brantley and Mr. Strickland met at work and began a romantic
relationship. However, on August 21, 2015, Ms. Brantley
invited Mr. Strickland to her home, and he sexually assaulted
her. She immediately drove herself to the emergency room and
called the police. On August 25, 2015, she informed American
Airlines' Human Resources department about the events.
The next day Mr. Strickland was criminally charged for
assault. Ms. Brantley also obtained a Protection from Abuse
Order (PFA) prohibiting Mr. Strickland from having any
interaction with her outside of work. She gave a copy of the
Order to American Airlines. On September 3, 2015, after a
hearing, the PFA was amended to specifically call for no
contact between the two at the work place, and Ms. Brantley
again gave a copy of the amended Order to American Airlines.
The copy she gave them, however, was folded before copying in
such a way that the amended language barring contact between
the two at work was obscured.
being timely informed of the assault, of the PFA, and of the
criminal charges, and despite the Airline's Vice
President Cedric Rockamore instructing that an investigation
into Mr. Strickland be conducted, American Airlines performed
no investigation beyond an attempt to speak with Mr.
Strickland and others involved without actually ever speaking
to them, and took no action with respect to Mr.
Strickland's employment or restricting his movements
within American Airlines locations at the airport.
August 28, 2015, Mr. Strickland changed his shift and was
assigned to the domestic Terminal B/C at the airport (the
same terminal where Ms. Brantley worked) for a shift
partially overlapping Ms. Brantley's shift. Because of
this, Ms. Brantley's supervisor directed her to leave her
work area to avoid Mr. Strickland for the remainder of his
shift. Ms. Brantley promptly reported the situation to the
Airline's Human Resources department. On November 4,
2015, when Ms. Brantley arrived at work, she heard from a
co-worker that Mr. Strickland had just been in the area near
the B/C ticket counter. She spoke to her supervisor about
this “near-miss” that same day.
November 24, 2015, Ms. Brantley was scheduled to work in her
usual area at the B/C ticket counter, but when she arrived
for work, the employees' timeclock at that counter was
not working. She walked to the A-East ticket counter to clock
While she was using the mirror in the employee break room
where the time clock is located, Mr. Strickland appeared in
the same break room. He stared, cat-called, and whistled at
her, refusing to leave when she repeatedly told him to get
away and causing her fear and emotional distress. Ms.
Brantley reported this encounter to Human Resources. On
December 16, 2016, Mr. Strickland's employment was
terminated for unrelated reasons.
the Court dismissed an assault and battery count against
American Airlines earlier in the case, Ms. Brantley's
sole remaining count against American Airlines is for
negligent hiring and supervision. American Airlines moves for
summary judgment on that claim, arguing that Ms. Brantley
cannot prove that it proximately caused the assault in the
A-East break room.
shall grant a motion for summary judgment “if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is
“genuine” if there is a sufficient evidentiary
basis on which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the non-moving party. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455
F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A factual
dispute is “material” if it might affect the
outcome of the case under governing law. Id. (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Under Rule 56, the Court
must view the evidence presented on the motion in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However,
“[u]nsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or
mere suspicions are insufficient to overcome a motion for
summary judgment.” Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev.
Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 252 (3d Cir. 2010).
movant (here, American Airlines) bears the initial
responsibility for informing the Court of the basis for the
motion for summary judgment and identifying those portions of
the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden
of proof on a particular issue, the moving party's
initial burden can be met simply by “pointing out to
the district court that there is an absence of evidence to
support the nonmoving party's case.” Id.
at 325. After the moving party has met the initial burden,
the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuinely disputed factual issue for trial by
“citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . .,
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials”
or by “showing that the materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine
dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the non-moving party fails to rebut by making
a factual showing “sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.
Airlines claims that Ms. Brantley cannot prove that the
Airline proximately caused the assault in the break room and
that therefore it is entitled to summary judgment. “To
recover for negligent supervision under Pennsylvania law, a
plaintiff must prove that [her] loss resulted from (1) a
failure to exercise ordinary care to prevent an intentional
harm by an employee acting outside the scope of his
employment, (2) that is committed on the employer's
premises, (3) when the employer knows or has reason to know
of the necessity and ability to control the employee.”
Belmont v. MB Inv. Partners, Inc., 708 F.3d 470,
487-88 (3d Cir. 2013). American Airlines argues that the
break room in which the encounter occurred was not near where
either Ms. Brantley or Mr. Strickland normally worked - Ms.
Brantley went to that break room on that day to clock-in
because the time clock in her terminal was not working, and
Mr. Strickland had picked up an extra shift. Therefore,
American Airlines argues, no one could have foreseen this
chance encounter between the two employees. It emphasizes
that when Mr. Strickland was in the same terminal as Ms.
Brantley in the past, Ms. Brantley's supervisor
appropriately took steps to make sure that the two did not
come into contact with one another. American ...