Pizza Hut Not Liable in TX Court for Claims of Sexual Assault by Delivery Driver

By Kristen M. Smith

A woman alleging sexual assault by a Pizza Hut delivery driver recently filed claims in Texas state court against MUY Pizza Houston LLC, the Pizza Hut franchisee that employed the driver, as well as Pizza Hut Inc., the franchisor.  The claims against Pizza Hut were based in part on a theory of vicarious liability.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Pizza Hut stating that it did not exercise direct control over MUY Pizza’s operations, and the franchise agreement put the responsibility of hiring and training employees on MUY Pizza, not Pizza Hut. 

In upholding the summary judgment, the appellate court stated that under Texas law, the test for whether or not a franchisor is vicariously liable for a franchisee’s conduct is whether the franchisor has the right to control the franchisee with respect to the details of that conduct, and a plaintiff can prove such control by establishing that the franchisor actually controlled or simply had a contractual right to do so.

The appellate court held that Pizza Hut’s right to set brand standards and procedures, require the franchisee to comply with them, and terminate the franchisee for failure to do so did not constitute the degree of control necessary to make Pizza Hut vicariously liable for the acts of its franchisee’s employee.

If you have questions about the result of this case or any similar matters, please reach out to Kristen M. Smith at kristen.smith@kentfranchiselaw.com or 215-751-2874.

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