Security Management | By Claire Meyer
In a crowded Florida nightclub, an argument between two customers got heated. Security personnel eventually ejected the patrons from the club, but the individuals walked out to the Elks Lodge parking lot and began another altercation that ended with a shooting. In the end, one bystander, Tanya Renee Oliver, was dead.
Although the final confrontation occurred outside the building, it was still on the nightclub’s property. The victim’s daughter filed suit against the business, claiming that the nightclub’s negligent security made it vicariously liable for the wrongful death of her mother. A St. Lucie Circuit Court jury delivered a nearly $5 million verdict against the defendant in 2019.
Michael Haggard, who represented the victim’s children in this negligent security case through The Haggard Law Firm, says the case hinged on finding that the actions taken that night—not ensuring that all parties left the premises entirely after being ejected from the building—did not match the actions called for in the organization’s own standards and procedures.
Security professionals may find themselves in court for a variety of cases, typically either intentional torts—false arrest, false imprisonment, or assault—or negligence, says Alan Zajic, CPP, a casino security expert and expert witness in security trials. For the former, organizations generally do a decent job of educating their employees about these risks, he notes.
“The rule of thumb should be for most security organizations that if a security officer, manager, or supervisor has to touch a guest or touch someone else, then a comprehensive report should be written,” Zajic says. “Then you establish the process of getting reports and video into evidence.”
In negligence cases, however, organizations must contend with the claim that security personnel should have acted but did not.
Typical cases brought on negligent security claims often involve the organization’s failure to implement, enforce, or document reasonable security measures such as training, proper lighting, and video surveillance, says Russell Kolins, an expert witness and consultant with the Kolins Security Group.