Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Class Discussion...Again

I am not trying to belabor Monday's class discussion concerning the K.M v. Publix case, but the fact that the court did not find Publix liable for K.M's molestation really bothers me. As mentioned in class, the legal ruling is logical, but ethics are absent from the ruling. However, in my opinion, there is a legal aspect that the courts seemed to skip over. The courts ruled that Publix was not responsible for Woodlard's actions outside of work because there was no "special" relationship entitling Publix to inform the third party of Woodlard's past. This,in theory, makes complete sense, seeing how it would be very intrusive for employers to monitor and reveal to others an employee's outside activities. However, in this case, I argue that there is a "special" relationship between Publix, Woodlard and K.M's mom. All three are employees, and the relationship between Woodward and K.M's mom was established at work. In addition, the fact that Publix would be revealing the illegal activity of Woodward, leads me to believe that Publix had the right and the responsibility to inform K.M's mom of Woodward's illegal activity. Furthermore, K.M is a minor, 7 years old; she has no concept of protecting herself or making legal charges. When dealing with illegal activity that affects minors, it seems that Publix should be obligated to inform others when a reasonable relationship has been established between parties.

I fully understand how placing this type of legal obligation on an employer could create a messy situation concerning privacy and monitoring of outside activities. However, this case doesn't present issues of privacy, so much as it presents issues of protecting minors from incurring illegal harm when they can't protect themselves. I also understand that some of the fault falls on K.M's mother for not checking out Woodlard's past, but I think that her oversight is outweighed by the lack of legal obligation to ensure that sexual preditors are not a threat to society.

Am I thinking too much into this case, or is the law slacking a bit? Let me know what you think!


Blogger Ashley said...

I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only one who this bothered. It’s a little unsettling to think about a seven year old child in the care of a child molester. I’m sure if KM’s mother knew what type of guy Woodward really was. I looked up some information from 2005 on sexual offenders in Florida. From what I read they had just started a tracking device program in which sexual predators had a GPS system attached to their ankle. This of course could tell them where the sexual predator was at all times. What I’m wondering is wouldn’t Woodward have to tell his parole officer that he was babysitting a child? I’m sure that could have sent up a red-flag to the parole officer and thus maybe got in contact with KM’s mother. This was also about the same time Jessica’s Law was put into place. Under Jessica’s Law Woodward could have faced a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a lifetime electronic monitoring. In Florida, sexual battery or rape of a child less than 12 years old is a capital felony, punishable only by death or life imprisonment with no chance of parole (Wikipedia). Now with that being said shouldn’t Publix be in trouble from hiding this from KM’s mother? Wouldn’t Publix’s be seen as an accomplice to this crime? I’m sure any parent would be outraged to find out that their employer knew this but didn’t tell them. I would hope that if the option was giving to me to change my schedule or have Woodward watch my child, I would certainly have my schedule changed to be home with my daughter. KM’s mother should have checked out Woodward’s background, but maybe she thought that since he was working in a supermarket, how bad of a guy could he be, especially if her boss didn’t say otherwise.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Katie Krengel said...

I think something we are missing here is the fact that Publix had no duty to KM. Perhaps Moses had a responsibility as a person to report such a finding, but Publix had no such responsibility. Woodlard being a child molester had nothing to do with his work. Publix did not solicit the information on Woodlard concerning his criminal background. Publix had no idea that the acts were happening again (nor had any reason to...he could have been reformed from serving his time in prison). This is an incredibly unfortunate case, but I don't think we can impose a ridiculous amount of responsibility on an employer in every case because this incident occurred. No matter how or where she met the person, it is the responsibility of the mother to get information on whom she is leaving her daughter with. Perhaps had she asked for such information from Moses she would have gotten it, but it was not Publix's LEGAL duty to share any such information, nor should a similar responsibility be put on an employer in a similar situation.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Dylan said...

While it may be disconcerting that Moses had information about Woodward's criminal record and an opportunity to prevent what happened to KM, the case itself is not against Moses, but Publix. Perhaps if Moses himself was the defendant he could be seen as guilty for some sort of negligence, however Publix itself had no legal duty to KM. While it's true that KM is a minor and may have no ability to protect herself, as her guardian, her mother bears most of this responsibility. If this responsibility is legally placed on the mother's employer as well, should all employers from this point forward hold responsibility for the safety of all of their employees children? Certainly this is an unreasonable amount of responsibility for the company itself. Perhaps a case could be made as to Moses' level of responsibility, but Publix has no legal obligation in this situation. The illegal activities took place far outside of the work site and no one at Publix, including Moses, was actually aware that they were taking place. While Moses' actions, or a lack thereof, may be morally questionable, they do not equate with his employers' legal responsibility.

11:20 PM  

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