Breach of Duty

If a duty exists, the next step in determining liability is analyzing whether or not the duty, or standard of care was breached. The standard of care may be established by contract or by the generally accepted practices within the security industry using a “reasonable person” standard.

Standards of Care

For example, if the client requires you to make regular foot patrol rounds every hour and you fail to do so, you have violated the standard of care imposed upon you by the contract (these requirements are usually reflected in the post orders). Assuming that someone slipped on the ice cream pile because you failed to see it due to your failure to make your regular rounds, you have violated the standard of care and have thus breached your duty.

Similarly, if someone was attacked in the parking lot as they were going out to their car, and the allegation is that the security officer failed to see a “menacing looking individual” hanging around the parking lot for over an hour, a failure to make regular rounds could be a basis for showing negligence. That is, the officer breached the standard of care by failing to make the regular rounds.

[Note: If the officer did, in fact, make regular rounds, which can be proven by their paperwork or through an electronic tour verification system, this will go a long way to show that the officer did act reasonably. It also shows that the “menacing individual” probably was not there during the rounds or they would have been contacted by the security officer, or the police would have been called. In such a case, there would be no breach of the standard of care – no breach of a duty.]

In the California case of Rosh v. Cave Imaging Systems, Inc. (1994) 26 Cal. App. 4th 1225, the plaintiff, a hiring manager, was shot by a former employee at the place of business. The security company knew of the fired employee’s rage and his intent to return to the office, but the security company did nothing to stop the former employee from repeatedly entering the premises. The terminated employee drove his car into the employee parking lot and successfully shot his former manager. The Court of Appeal affirmed the jury verdict against the security company. The security company not only had a duty to protect against this known danger, but also was the proximate cause of the Plaintiff’s injury because it failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the fired employee from gaining access to the employee parking lot.

California law supports the proposition that security officers cannot prevent all criminal actions and the officer’s actions are not necessarily the cause of the Plaintiff’s injury. Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal. 4th 666; Sharon P. v. Arman, Ltd. (1999) 21 Cal. 4th 1181, Saelzler v. Advanced Group 400 (2001) 25 Cal. 4th 763. However, the determination of liability in the Rosh case highlights the necessity for the security officer to take action when there is a known danger.