LIABILITY & LEGAL ASPECTS (Lesson 10 of 28)
In the course of your role as a security officer, you should be aware that much of what you do will be the enforcement of rules. Most people, thankfully, are both law abiding and rule obeying. Unfortunately, the tough times happen when someone does not want to follow the rules.
This can sometimes result in contact, verbal confrontation, or even physical confrontation. People are detained and arrested. Police are called. People who believe they were wrongfully detained or dealt with often turn to the civil court system to seek “justice” in the form of money.
In addition to enforcing rules, the law places the responsibility upon you to make sure you do your job skillfully and reasonably. This may include something as simple as properly documenting the patrol rounds that you are making, even on foot, at your client’s business or building.
When people suffer an injury due to your actions, the criminal actions of third parties, or even your failure to act, the result can be a civil lawsuit. By understanding what is expected of you, you can reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit against your company and you.
Torts (i.e. “wrongs”) can be unintentional (such as negligence), or intentional (such as assault and battery, false imprisonment, harassment, etc.). Both unintentional and intentional torts are actionable in the civil court system.
The purpose of this section is to educate you on the more common reasons you might get sued. By learning, you can avoid the pitfalls!
Anatomy of a Civil Litigation
A civil lawsuit starts with an incident. Typically, someone suffers injury. This party is the Plaintiff. Sometimes a claim is submitted immediately upon the injury occurring. This provides the defendant with notice as to what transpired, who was involved, and what the facts are regarding the injury. However, an injured party does not need to submit any type of claim or notice. The first notice of an injury may be the filing of a lawsuit!
With a two-year statute of limitations period for most civil actions, it is imperative that the officer take notes, prepare an incident report, and document the circumstances for all injuries during or immediately following the incident. (Code of Civil Procedure Section 335.2.) It is very difficult to recall specific facts two years after an incident without these aids.
After the lawsuit is filed, the parties may participate in discovery. Discovery allows both sides the opportunity to learn additional facts of the case. Discovery may be written or oral. Oral discovery is in the form of a deposition. The deponent is placed under oath and the questions and answers are transcribed by a court reporter. Written discovery may request written answers to questions and production of documents. The security officer may be asked to have his or her deposition taken and to answer written questions under oath.
Upon completion of discovery, a civil lawsuit may proceed through mediation or arbitration or straight to trial. The trial may be a court trial, with a judge deciding the questions of fact, or more likely, will be a jury trial with a jury determining the facts of the case.