HR Strange But True!
March 08, 2002

A judge has ruled that the state of New York bears liability for the conduct of an employee who was attempting to do his job - collecting highway tolls - even though his approach was unconventional and illegal.

That approach, according to the New York Law Journal, entailed beating up a motorist who had shortchanged him.

On April 2, 1998, Niki Lynn Seifert drove two exits further on the New York State Thruway than she normally would.

Seifert handed over the usual 15 cents and began to drive off when she heard the toll collector hollering at her and realized she had neglected to pay the full toll.

Seifert backed up to pay the toll and apologize, but was confronted by the toll collector, John R. LaBelle. LaBelle left the toll booth and repeatedly punched Seifert in the face. Another patron called the police, and LaBelle was arrested. Seifert suffered soft tissue injuries and multiple abrasions.

Judge Edgar C. Nemoyer of Buffalo said the fact that the toll collector was performing his function - regardless that he was doing so in an obviously improper manner - exposes the state to full liability.

"Obviously, the [state] did not authorize LaBelle's assaultive behavior, which was certainly irregular and in disregard of instructions," he said. "Nevertheless, it appears to the court that LaBelle was acting in furtherance of his employer's business, and performing his assigned duties. Consequently, the court finds LaBelle was acting within the scope of his employment when he assaulted claimant."

The judge went on to award damages of $12,459.

Source: New York Law Journal, via

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