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Garnett v. Remedi Seniorcare of Virginia, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 11, 2018

SADE GARNETT, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
REMEDI SENIORCARE OF VIRGINIA, LLC, Defendant-Appellee, and AARON TRY, Defendant.

          Argued: May 9, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. Henry E. Hudson, Senior District Judge. (3:17-cv-00128-HEH)

         ARGUED:

          Richard F. Hawkins, III, THE HAWKINS LAW FIRM, PC, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Elena D. Marcuss, MCGUIREWOODS LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Adam T. Simons, MCGUIREWOODS LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

          Before WILKINSON, and NIEMEYER, Circuit Judges, and Richard M. GERGEL, United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina, sitting by designation.

          WILKINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         When Sade Garnett took off work to undergo a medical procedure, her coworker Aaron Try engaged in crude, baseless, and ignorant speculation about the reasons for her absence. Garnett filed this defamation suit against their mutual employer, Remedi SeniorCare of Virginia. The district court concluded that the statement was not defamatory and dismissed the suit. We affirm, but on different grounds. The alleged statement, while offensive and odious, will not support an action against Remedi under Virginia law because a company cannot be held liable for employee statements made outside the scope of employment.

         I.

         Remedi SeniorCare is an institutional pharmacy that ships medications to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Garnett worked at its Ashland, Virginia location, often alongside Try, a night supervisor.

         On January 14, 2015, Garnett told Try she would be out the next day to undergo surgery. During that absence, Garnett alleges that Try told other Remedi employees that "Sade was having surgery on her vagina because she got a STD [be]cause that's the only reason a female gets surgery on her vagina, " and that "Sade was having a biopsy of her vagina." J.A. 67.

         Garnett filed suit against Remedi in the Circuit Court for the City of Richmond. Remedi removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern ...


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