Private Security Contractor Agencies take note: your contracts may help or hinder your defense to claims from clients and third parties for criminal acts performed while your guard is on post.
Fred Nickl obtained summary judgment (a rare feat in Cook County) a couple of years ago for a Private Security Contractor Agency on a wrongful death and negligence complaint based on a shooting that resulted in the death of a high school-aged girl, and T9 paraplegia of a teenage boy. The Private Security Contractor Agency provided an unarmed, uniformed security officer at a local supermarket to stand at the store entrance and offer customer service. The plaintiffs also sued the supermarket and the Private Security Contractor Agency that provided a plainclothes loss prevention officer assigned to the store. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants owed a duty to the plaintiffs to prevent two gang members from shooting the plaintiffs in the parking lot outside of the store, or to at least warn plaintiffs of the potential danger. The plaintiffs alleged that an altercation occurred in the store between the gang members and the male plaintiff prior to the shooting in the parking lot, and that this altercation should have placed the defendants on notice of the danger, combined with the alleged history of criminal activity at that store’s location.
The parties conducted approximately 20 depositions, and disclosed approximately 100 trial witnesses. All defendants then filed motions for summary judgment, although the court granted summary judgment to Mr. Nickl’s client only. The defense relied on a relatively recent decision from the Illinois Appellate Court, arising out of a Cook County lawsuit against a Private Security Contractor Agency. In that case, the agency provided unarmed security guards to a business facility, and the court ruled that the Agency, via their contract, did not undertake the duty of protecting employees of the facility from criminal acts of a third party who entered the guardhouse at the gate, pulled a gun out, and led the guard to an unlocked door where the third party randomly shot and killed workers. Further, in that case, the defendant agency did not breach any duty of care it had toward the plaintiffs and their decedents, and the court affirmed the entry of summary judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaints. Mr. Nickl analogized the fact pattern present in his case to the appellate decision, and the trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for the Private Security Contractor Agency.