A St. Augustine, Florida woman (Pamela Niland) allegedly dumped hazardous waste taken from Flagler Hospital, including vials of blood and drugs and old needles, into a dumpster belonging to a St. Johns County construction company, according to an article at Firstcoastnews.com. As most people know, hospitals and doctors’ offices have procedures and waste containers for properly and safely disposing of such hazardous materials. According to the article, the crime was caught on a surveillance camera and also observed by a witness. Pamela Niland had not been arrested as of the time the article was written.
This article reminded me of a post I wrote last month about companies that can be criminally liable for the actions of their employees. That post was published in the Jacksonville Business Journal, and it discussed how a company can be held criminally liable for the acts of an employee if the employee commits an act in violation of federal law while acting in the course and scope of his/her employment and acting to benefit the company. As the federal law currently stands, in such a case, it is not a defense for the company to show that the employee was a low-level employee or that the company undertook efforts to prevent such unlawful acts. I am not suggesting that Flagler Hospital would be criminally liable in this reported case- there is no indication that the federal authorities are involved, and it is not clear if Pamela Niland was an employee of Flagler Hospital at the time this act was allegedly committed. However, this can be the type of unlawful act committed by an employee that unexpectedly implicates an employer and subjects the employer to severe financial penalties for something over which they may have had little or no control.