Earlier this month, Judge Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia tossed claims against Tysons Law Group, Vienna Law Group, and affiliated attorneys for “vicarious liability” and “negligent hiring, retention and supervision.” Virginia does not recognize an independent cause of action for vicarious liability or negligent supervision. While it does recognize negligent hiring and negligent retention as actionable torts, a plaintiff cannot pursue such claims without alleging a physical injury. The plaintiff in this particular case failed to do that, so the claims were dismissed.
The plaintiff hired Vienna Law Group for immigration related services. Michael Oveysi worked for Vienna Law Group, supervised by Ronald Coleman. According to the plaintiff’s contentions, Oveysi advised him to transfer investment funds and legal fees totaling $566,000 to a bank account that Oveysi controlled. Oveysi, he claims, then made off with the money. The complaint alleges that Oveysi was not subjected to a background investigation prior to his employment and that a background check would have revealed Oveysi’s financial problems. That plaintiff argued that it was negligent to allow Oveysi to work with clients and their money under these circumstances. The defendants moved to dismiss.
In Virginia, vicarious liability is a theory of liability rather than a separate cause of action. The court noted that the purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits rather than to multiply the causes of action. Here, the theory of vicarious liability was addressed in another claim. Accordingly, the court found the separate claim for vicarious liability was improper and dismissed it.