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Is our professionalism on trial?

WHAT IS THE fastest growing field of tort law in the United States? Security malpractice and premises liability lawsuits. In both the United States and Canada, security officers and their firms are being sued for intentional torts that charge wrongful action or for negligent torts that charge insufficient action. These torts are termned third-party lawsuits because, although the original parties in the incident may be a victim and a perpetrator, a third parry such as a corporate landlord may be included in the suit for having contributed to the crime through negligent security.

Understanding the causes of security litigation and the reasons for the increase in lawsuits is essential. Strangely enough, the increasing professionalism of the security industry itself is a leading factor in the number of security-related lawsuits. As private security continues to become more professional, it increases the level of competence expected of the practitioner and drives up the level of care courts expect him or her to maintain.

In North America, the concept of favoring the underdog as he or she battles with a Goliath has always been popular. Many lawyers know they have a chance to get sympathy money if they can take their case to a jury.

Another factor in the trend toward litigation is the increase in personal and property crime during that decade, where more middle-class people became crime victims. Unlike the poor, who had been the traditional crime victims, middleclass victims possessed the resources to pursue litigation. inspired by the civil rights and women's rights movements, a strong victims' rights movement encouraged third-party lawsuits.

Consider also that people who have been victimized often feel their lives are out of control. A man is reduced to the emotional status of a boy when someone sticks a gun in his face and steals his money. Even the criminal justice system contributes to this loss of control by making all significant decisions and reducing the victim to a piece of evidence. By engaging in a lawsuit, hiring a lawyer, and making the key decisions in an effort to receive compensation for a loss, victims May feel they are once again in control of their lives.

Many victims also demand accountability-they want the perpetrator of a crime to be identified and adjudicated for a heinous act. In the criminal justice system, it is more difficult for a victim to gain a favorable verdict since certainty beyond a reasonable doubt must be achieved by the jury.

Many victims suggest there is social value to instituting lawsuits against their parties, believing that a corporate target of big landlord would do nothing to change conditions unless forced to do so by the threat of financial penalties. The victim's primary motivation is to deter crime against innocent people by forcing defendants to take steps to prevent future tragedy.

Another issue in litigation is compensation, which is a victim's means of asking to be placed in the position he or she was in before the crime occured Since this is not within a court's power to do, an appropriate amount of money is the only alternative. The money is not to enrich but to help victims adjust to the stress of a criminal attack.

While many security professionals may not approve of the current trend in litigation, it remains a force to be reckoned with. Additionally, while many security professionals may doubt the purity of a plaintiff's motives, many jurors will not. Security litigation is here to stay-we must respond with increased professionalism.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security malpractice & premises liability lawsuits
Author:Kennedy, Daniel B.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1990
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