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Brian Sobas

on 11 June 2010

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DAVIS v.THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF DONA ANA COUNTY FACTS OF THE CASE Mr. Joseph “Tinie” Herrera was hired by Mesilla Valley Hospital as a mental health technician (January 20, 1995). Mr. Herrera started to work with a woman who was going through psychiatric therapy on February 26, 1995. Within 2 weeks of caring for his female patient Mr. Herrera began to sexually harass, sexually assault, and physically assault his patient. Mesilla Valley Hospital Dona Ana County Detention Center Mr. Herrara previously served as a detention sergeant and classification officer at the Dona Ana County Detention Center. Mesilla Valley Hospital states that they hired Mr. Herrera regardless of under qualification because they received favorable recommendations from former supervisors: detention center director Frank Steele and Captain Al Mochen. The reference letter sent by Mr. Steele and Mr. Mochen did not mention to hospital human resource staff that Mr. Herrara had been investigated for sexual harassment of female inmates at the prison. They also omitted the disciplinary actions of demotion, suspension without pay, reassignment, and the scheduling of a disciplinary action hearing on April 12, 1994. Upon his resignation, on April 8, 1994, Mr. Herrara asked Mr. Steele for a letter of recommendation for prospective employment. Mr. Steele granted Mr. Herrara’s request on April 11, 1994 and did not mention the allegations, reprimand, discipline, or demotion. Mr. Herrera applied to the Mesilla Valley Hospital on December 5, 1994. He brought the letter of recommendation from Mr. Steele to supplement his application. Mesilla Valley Hospital also pursued a reference check with Mr. Mochen. Mr. Mochen told Mesilla Valley Hospital that Mr. Herrera was a good person and a hard worker whom he would absolutely rehire. Plaintiff sued the County for negligent misrepresentation alleging that the misinformation supplied by the Detention Center employees, Steele and Mochen, proximately caused Herrera to be hired at Mesilla Valley Hospital and the Plaintiff to be assaulted. What legal issue is presented in the case? Negligent referral or misrepresentation. What was the Court’s holding (ruling)? The Court ruled that employers that choose to respond to requests for information
about former employees should not do so in a selective and misleading manner.
What was the Court’s analysis/rationalization? First, employers owe a duty of care to third parties as well as the prospective employer to whom the recommendation is given. Second, every person has a duty to exercise ordinary care for the safety of others.
See Randi W., 929 P.2d 582.
Third, the assault and battery was tied specifically to the hiring of Mr. Herrara. The crime was not a remote or unrelated incident. Fourth, Mr. Steele and Mr. Mochen willfully misrepresented Mr. Herrara’s service record. They owed any individual that Mr. Herrara worked with a truthful response or
a no comment response on a reference.
Was the ruling correct, just, and fair? Why you think so? The ruling was correct. The misleading references led
Mesilla Valley Hospital to believe that Mr. Herrara was a qualified candidate
with solid credentials. The sexual abuse and sexual harassment were tied directly to the candidate
and his behavior before being hired. None of which was mentioned when the references were contacted. The Dona Ana County Detention Center owed the third party individuals a truthful response or a no comment on the reference. Is this case in harmony with Christian values and ethics? Give Biblical references to support your answer. This case’s ruling used Christian values and ethics to come to a conclusion. The first reference that comes to mind encourages individuals not to lie, “You shall not give testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). Second, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Matthew 7:12).
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