Davis v. The Board of County Commissioners of Doña Ana County
January 23, 2011
1. What was the legal issue in this case?
The legal issue in the case of Davis v. The Board of County Commissioners of Doña Ana County involved acts of ill-will which could have been avoided. While employed as a detention officer at the Dona Ana County Detention Center, Joseph Herrera, was accused of unsuitable sexual behavior with female prison inmates and of exchanging favors for sex acts. Herrera’s supervisor, Frank Steele, investigated the charges and advised Herrera that he would be reprimanded. Herrera resigned to avoid disciplinary action. Six days later, Steele wrote a recommendation letter on Herrera’s behalf that portrayed him as an “excellent employee” and told prospective employers: “I am confident that you would find [Herrera] to be an excellent employee.” (Walsh, 2010, p.149). Also, constructive verbal references were made by another Detention Center supervisor. Plaintiff sued the County for negligent misrepresentation alleging that the misinformation provided by the Detention Center employees, Steele and Mochen, actually caused Herrera to be hired at MVH and Plaintiff to be assaulted.
2. Why does the court conclude that Doña Ana County could be held liable for negligent referral (misrepresentation)?
The court concludes that Doña Ana County could be held liable for negligent referral (misrepresentation) because of the positive references. Herrera acquired a position as a mental health technician at a psychiatric care hospital. Roughly six weeks later, he sexually assaulted and physically abused a female patient.
Relying in large part on Randi W. v. Muroc Joint Unified School District, 14 Cal.4th 1066 (1997). The former employers had unconditionally praised the former employee in their letters of recommendation, even though they knew of charges or...