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Fox Associates, Inc. v. Robert Half International

September 24, 2002

FOX ASSOCIATES, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ROBERT HALF INTERNATIONAL, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 00 L 7385 Honorable Edmund Ponce de Leon, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McBRIDE

UNPUBLISHED

The primary issue on appeal is whether the negligent misrepresentation exception to the economic loss doctrine stated in Moorman Manufacturing Co. v. National Tank Co., 91 Ill. 2d 69, 435 N.E.2d 443 (1982), applies to an employment agency, defendant Robert Half International, Inc. (Robert Half), for losses suffered by its client, plaintiff Fox Associates, Inc. (Fox), resulting from acts of an employee Fox hired through Robert Half.

The relevant facts are as follows. In early 1998, Fox, a magazine advertising agency, contacted the "accountemps" division of Robert Half, seeking a temporary bookkeeper.

In March 1998, bookkeeper T'Challa Ross (Ross) completed an "accountemps" employment application form which included the question, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony, convicted of a misdemeanor involving dishonesty or moral turpitude or been convicted in a military court martial?" Ross answered "No," despite having been convicted of embezzling $190,000 from an employer. It is unclear from the record where this conviction occurred; however, in Illinois, theft of property exceeding $100,000 in value is a Class 1 felony. 720 ILCS 5/16-1 (West 1998). Ross also provided the names of two references.

Robert Half contacted both references. The first reference, who supervised Ross while Ross worked as a corporate accountant between December 1995 and February 1998, described her as an "honest, trustworthy employee who we may rehire in the future," and the second reference stated that Ross's "overall quality [was] very good, [she was] honest."

Robert Half informed Fox that Ross was available for a temporary bookkeeping assignment and indicated that her references had described her as honest and trustworthy.

Ross began her temporary assignment at Fox on March 27, 1998. A written agreement between the parties provided in relevant part:

"Our employee is being assigned to you under the following Conditions of Agreement:

The person assigned is an employee of accountemps and shall not be deemed to be your employee. ***

***

An accountemps employee may not handle cash, negotiables or other valuables without the written consent of accountemps and then only under your direct supervision.

***

After you evaluate the performance and potential of our employee, you may wish to employ this person directly. Our employees represent our inventory of skilled professionals and in the event you wish [Ross] converted to your ...


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