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A state appeals court Wednesday ruled it had jurisdiction rather than a workers compensation court over a suit alleging a Trump 2016 presidential campaign worker pointed his gun at a co-worker causing emotional distress and other damages, but the court still dismissed the suit.
Affirming a lower court ruling in Vincent Bordini v. Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and Earl Phillip, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina in Raleigh ruled among other things that Mr. Phillip was working under minimal direction as an independent contractor for the Trump campaign and liability for his conduct could not be transferred to the campaign.
According to the ruling, in 2015 Mr. Phillip was hired as a director to oversee the 2016 campaign in North Carolina. He was licensed to carry a concealed weapon and he frequently carried a pistol nicknamed “Roscoe” while working for the campaign, court documents say.
Mr. Phillip hired Mr. Bordini as data director for the campaign and in February 2016, while Mr. Phillip was driving with Mr. Bordini to a campaign event, he took out his gun and held it against Mr. Bordini’s knee with his finger on the trigger, according to court documents.
In August 2016, Mr. Bordini filed a complaint against Mr. Phillip and the Trump campaign, alleging five causes of action stemming from the incident: assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligent retention and supervision.
In November 2017, a lower court granted the Trump campaign’s motion for summary judgment, but Mr. Bordini appealed the ruling.
The campaign contended that the case should be heard by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which administers workers comp law, but the appellate court ruled that case was not preempted by workers comp law.
“The risk of being intentionally assaulted at gunpoint by a coworker is not one which a reasonable person may have contemplated when accepting an information technology job on a presidential campaign,” the court ruled.
The court also held that the campaign could not be held vicariously liable for Mr. Phillip’s actions because he was an independent contractor, not an employee. He was hired through a political consulting firm, he had no set work hours, was not under a regular employment contract and was responsible to the campaign for “the result of his work” rather than in the manner it was performed, the ruling said.
In addition, Mr. Bordini did not show that the campaign knew of Mr. Phillip’s alleged previous “erratic behavior,” the ruling states.
According to the ruling, Mr. Bordini submitted affidavits from officials who worked with him at the North Carolina Grand Old Party who testified that Mr. Phillip had brandished his gun while working for the organization, including an incident where he “angrily demanded a coworker get into his vehicle while brandishing Roscoe.”
The appeals court ruled that while there may have been evidence that officials from the other organization spoke with the Trump campaign, there was no evidence they told the campaign about the alleged earlier incidents.
Attorneys in the case could not immediately be reached for comment.
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