A Potential Case of Negligence in Florida Emphasizes Screening for Risky Hires

It’s a nightmare scenario when there is a threat to an individual. Or worse, if someone takes another’s life. While tragedies related to an employee are rare, they’re situations for which HR teams may choose to prepare. Many employers even pinpoint safety as a top reason for doing background checks.

A recent complaint filed in Florida relates to a terrible situation like this. An employee of a housing complex allegedly killed a woman, who was a fellow employee and tenant. And while the details are startling, this pending case is a reminder to employers. Companies run a risk of negligence if they don’t hire and employ responsibly. They should act with the safety of their staff, customers, and the public in mind.

Alleged Events that Ended in Tragedy

The estate of the alleged victim, Miya Marcano, filed a lawsuit in Orange County, Florida on October 18, 2021 against Arden Villas Apartments, LLC (“Arden Villas Apartment”) and the D.P Preiss Company, Inc. (“Preiss”), among others. The complaint states that Marcano was hired by Preiss in June, 2021 to work in the front office of the Arden Villas Apartments, where she was also a tenant.

According to the complaint, during her employment, Marcano met Armando Caballero, who also was employed by Arden Villas Apartments and/or their agents or employees, including Preiss. At some point, she voiced her discomfort with Caballero to her parents and colleagues. But, according to the complaint, it was common for management at the complex to ignore complaints from staff and tenants.

In September 2021, Caballero allegedly kidnapped Marcano from her own apartment. The complaint states that Caballero used a key fob, or other access control device, given to him by the defendants to get into Marcano’s residence. She was later found dead.

The complaint states that “At no time was [Marcano] made aware by the management of Arden Villas that Caballero had a criminal background, a history of harassing women, nor was she aware that Caballero would have unsupervised and/or free access to her apartment.”

Accusations of Negligence

Among other claims, the complaints alleges that the defendants should have been aware of the risk Caballero posed. Defendants knew, or should have known, “that he should have not been hired, not been retained, and/or not been given a key fob (or other access device) that provided unfettered access to apartments…”

Additionally, the complaint alleges that because some employees had access control devices that allowed them to enter apartments, “Defendant had a duty to ensure that all persons that sought to work for defendant and/or at Arden Villas, were properly vetted, and that only appropriate persons were hired”.

Filing documents allege that Arden Villas and others breached their duty to exercise reasonable care and safety for the protection of residents, including Marcano. They also claim that the defendants acted in a negligent manner in various respects, including, but not limited to:

  • Failing to adequately vet prospective employees, including Caballero
  • Failing to contact the prior employers of prospective employees, including Caballero
  • Failing to conduct criminal background searches of prospective employees, including Caballero
  • Failing to implement or execute an adequate screening process for potential employees, thereby allowing persons, that otherwise would be deemed dangerous, to work at Arden Villas

This case is pending and the allegations remain only allegations at this stage in litigation. However, this case highlights the potential risks to employers, their staff and customers, and more. Hiring candidates without proper vetting can result in a dangerous situation. Employers may want to work with their legal counsel to determine if their current background checks thoroughly protect their organization.

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