Summary Judgment Obtained for Security Company Client in High Exposure Negligence Case Arising from Robbery & Shooting

Haight brought a motion for summary judgment in a negligence case that arose out of a robbery and shooting between the plaintiff and a third-party. Our client was a security company that provided two unarmed security guards to a bank in Huntington Park, California. On the day of the incident in 2017, the plaintiff made a deposit at an ATM and then left the bank. While walking home on a sidewalk adjacent to the bank property, the third-party criminal pulled his car alongside the sidewalk, approached the plaintiff, held him at gunpoint, and demanded his wallet. The plaintiff initially complied, but a scuffle broke out between the two men, and the plaintiff was shot multiple times. The third-party fled the scene. Neither security guard on duty was posted in sight of the altercation at the time of the incident, which occurred on the far side of the business plaza from the bank.

The plaintiff later sued the bank and the security company and claimed that the security company negligently performed its duties leading up to the incident. Specifically, he claimed the company failed to send its supervisors to monitor the guards prior to the incident, and that the guards were spending insufficient time patrolling the exterior of the bank prior to the incident. He also claimed that the subject incident should have been foreseeable to both the bank and the security company in light of the fact that the bank was located in a high-crime area and other criminal activity had occurred on the premises in the years past.

In our motion for summary judgment, we argued that the security company never owed the plaintiff a duty of care and, even if it did, none of its actions or omissions were the proximate cause of the subject incident. Specifically, we argued that the nature and scope of the security company’s duties and responsibilities is shaped by what they were contracted to do, and the guards were hired only to deter criminal activity directed against the bank, not to protect patrons from third-party criminals. We also argued that no duty of care to protect the plaintiff could be imposed on the bank or the security company because the crime was unforeseeable—there was no history of substantially similar incidents occurring on the sidewalk such that a duty could be imposed on either defendant to patrol the sidewalk or undertake other security or protective measures. Finally, we argued that even if there was a duty of care owed to the plaintiff, there was no evidence any action or omission by the security company or its guards actually caused the incident. Both guards performed their duties responsibly, they had no advance warning of the third-party criminal, who never set foot on the property, and there was no evidence the criminal took their patrol routines or postings into consideration prior to assaulting the plaintiff.

The court granted the motion after finding neither the security company nor the bank owed a duty of care to protect the plaintiff. It noted that the security guards were retained to protect the bank and deter criminal activity targeting the bank, and there was no evidence the guards were retained to protect plaintiff or similarly-situated persons from criminal actions of third-parties. Additionally, the court found that there was no evidence of substantially similar pre-incident shootings and robberies occurring on the sidewalk such that the subject incident could have been sufficiently foreseeable to impose a duty on the defendants to take greater security measures. Because the court found the security company owed no duty of care to protect the plaintiff, it did not address the causation argument. At oral argument, Plaintiff’s counsel effectively conceded as to our client and focused his entire argument against the bank, which was nevertheless rejected by the court.

July 1, 2022