Satellite-TV provider DirecTV is being sued for allegedly bringing a registered sex offender into a customer's house during a service call.
Wahren Scott Massey has been a registered sex offender in Texas since 1998, but in 2012 he accompanied a DirecTV subcontractor into a customer's house during a service call. According to Dallas-Fort Worth's WFAA-TV, Massey was left in a room with the customer's 12-year-old daughter, who caught him snapping photos of her on his cell phone.
Massey was arrested, pleaded guilty to a pair of crimes, and is now in prison. So what liability is DirecTV potentially facing over this sex offender incident?
Suit to Hold DirecTV Accountable
According to WFAA, Massey is serving four years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted indecency with a child and attempted sexual performance of a child.
Now the family's legal gaze has shifted to DirecTV in the form of a civil lawsuit, seeking up to $200,000 in damages. As their attorney Rob Crain told WFAA: "This is a public safety concern. This is a danger no one wants coming into their home."
While news reports don't mention what causes of action the family is pressing in its suit, there are some common ways to try to hold companies legally accountable for workers' conduct. These include claims of:
- Negligent hiring/training. DirecTV may have a policy about what subcontractors can and cannot do in customers' homes. Perhaps allowing strangers to "ride along" on service calls is one of them. The Texas family could try to prove that DirecTV was negligent in training or hiring the subcontractor who allowed a registered sex offender into their home.
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress. If this incident's potential emotional trauma has manifested in any family member's loss of sleep, headaches, or other signs of physical distress, the family may be able to recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Liability for a Subcontractor's Actions?
But here's a potential problem: Neither Massey nor the subcontractor are DirecTV employees. Typically, employers can be held liable for the negligence of their employees, but the man whom Massey accompanied was actually a contract worker for MasTec Advanced Technologies.
While DirecTV told WFAA that Massey had "no affiliation with DirecTV whatsoever," the company did note that "contractors and subcontractors are required to complete a background check before being allowed to perform any installation services." Since Texas is more conservative about hiring anyone with a criminal record, it stands to reason that Massey may not have been employed by either company.
The family's claims against DirecTV may then rely on whether the company is liable for the actions of a subcontracting installer. MasTec told WFAA that it is reviewing the filing with its attorneys.
- Texas family sues DirecTV over sex offender who came to their home (Reuters)
- Can You Refuse to Hire a Sex Offender? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
- Woman Sues Match.com: Sexual Predator Raped Her? (FindLaw's Injured)
- Lawsuit: Convicted Sex Offender Worked at CA School (FindLaw's Injured)