Shaw v. Psychemedics Corporation

The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina certified a question of state law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Plaintiff was a former employee of BMW at its manufacturing facility in Spartanburg. During his employment, Plaintiff was subject to random drug tests. BMW contracted with Defendant to test hair samples of BMW employees for the presence of drugs. Plaintiff was selected for a random drug test, which was administered on-site by a contract nurse from a local hospital. According to Defendant's analysis, his hair sample tested positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine (the primary metabolite of cocaine). Though Plaintiff asserted that he had not used any illegal substances, BMW suspended Plaintiff pending an investigation. On April 22, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a hair sample to an independent drug testing laboratory whose report determined that Plaintiff's hair tested negative for any illegal substances. BMW refused to accept the independent laboratory's results but permitted Plaintiff to submit a second hair sample for analysis by Defendant. The second hair sample also tested positive for cocaine and benzoylecgonine. BMW subsequently terminated Plaintiff due to the positive drug test results. Plaintiff maintained he was not and had never been a drug user. Plaintiff filed an action against Defendant, alleging negligence and negligent supervision. In response, Defendant filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss on the basis that Defendant did not owe a duty to Plaintiff. The certified question posed to the South Carolina Supreme Court asked whether a drug testing laboratory contracted with an employer to conduct and evaluate drug tests, owed a duty of care to employees subject to such testing that gives rise to a cause of action for negligence for failure to properly and accurately perform the test and report the results. The Supreme Court responded in the affirmative: “without the recognition of a duty, a terminated employee is often left without a means for redress, while the drug testing laboratory is effectively immunized from liability. … Therefore, absent a duty of care, drug testing laboratories are able to avoid liability for their negligence.” View "Shaw v. Psychemedics Corporation" on Justia Law