Directed verdict in favor of defendants issued in negligent hire trial

David Yates Aug. 16, 2011, 8:46am

Editor's Note: This story corrects certain legal information in a previously published story.

After four days of testimony, a negligent hiring civil trial ended with a directed verdict in favor of the defendants.

The trial of R.J. Freeman vs. Barnes Equipment et al began June 21 and focused on the alleged racially motivated assaults of Freeman, a black man, by his co-workers and also his subsequent termination by Barnes Equipment.

Court records show that Freeman, a former Barnes Equipment employee, filed suit against the owners of the company, James and Stacy Barnes, along with two of its employees, Robert Flowers and Robert Deewees, on May 29, 2009, in Jefferson County District Court.

As soon as Freeman rested his case, the Barneses moved that there was not enough evidence to support his allegation of negligent hiring.

On June 24 Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, issued a directed verdict, ordering that Freeman take nothing from the defendants and that the company be dismissed with prejudice, court papers say.

According to the lawsuit, Flowers, a white co-worker, assaulted Freeman. A year later, on Jan. 23, 2009, another white co-worker, Deewees, again allegedly assaulted Freeman.

Freeman claimed the Barneses took no action against both men and in fact terminated his employment following the second assault.

"Following each of these racially motivated attacks, James Barnes, the Caucasian owner and manager of Barnes Equipment, took no action to terminate either offender, nor did he take any steps to ensure the future safety of his workers," the original petition states.

"Barnes did however fire Freeman ... based on his race."

Beaumont attorney Laurie Farshad represents Freeman.

The Barneses are represented by Trey Browne, attorney for the Beaumont law firm Coffey & Browne.

Case No. A184-180

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