A Clear View of Liability

By D. Anthony Nichter, CPP

Selective monitoring. The next type of liability is when an organization has elected to monitor a designated portion, section, or aspect of its enterprise to the exclusion of another. This may not be a problem if the unmonitored portion has the same level of security and protection as that which is being monitored via alternative risk-management methods.

In a recent Nevada case, a big-box store had previously protected its 800-space parking lot with live monitoring via cameras and physical patrols. It then ceased live monitoring and switched to recording only. It also discontinued having its own security officers physically patrol the lot and contracted for a lone guard to patrol the entire lot in a truck.

After this change in protocol, a patron was killed in the parking lot. At trial, the jury learned that the security contractor and its employees were not aware that the outdoor, roof-mounted cameras were being recorded and not watched in real time. The jury also learned that inside the store, there were more than 50 surveillance cameras watching most of the store.

Operators in the store’s surveillance room were in constant contact with both retail sales supervisors and plain-clothes loss prevention agents on the floor. The trained operators knew how to maximize the surveillance camera equipment. They also knew how to adroitly coordinate with the loss prevention agents to confirm a theft and capture the culprits before they could leave the store.

By contrast, the only oversight given the outside lot was the lone contract guard patrolling in a truck; he had no direct radio contact with security inside the store and the mistaken belief that surveillance officers were also watching the parking lot. The jury decided that the store’s inside model was within the standard of care; the outside model was significantly below. The jury awarded the decedent’s family more than $1 million.

In the case that opened this article, the woman who was stabbed in the neck nearly died from her wounds. During the resulting lawsuit, it was learned that—as in the case just described—the inside of the store was patrolled and monitored while the outside had a lone contract guard watching the football-field-sized parking lot and no one monitoring the camera feed. The settlement with the store was for several hundred thousand dollars.


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