The New Frontier of Security Liability

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New Lawsuits Question Property Owners Responsibility to Provide Security for Visitors

Jessica Garcia, and her husband Guillermo were both shot during the El Paso, Texas Walmart shooting on August 3, 2019. They recently filed a lawsuit against the retailer accusing them of failing to provide adequate security for its employees and patrons. This suit is one of several that have been filed against the retail giant in the wake of the shooting, and they raise the question of what legal liability retail and perhaps even education have when it comes to protection of citizens on their property.

Rolling the Dice

According to the suit, filed by attorneys Robert Ammons and Patrick Luff of the Ammons Law Firm in Houston, Walmart’s security policies will be called into question along with why the store did not employ armed security patrols. In an interview with CBS MoneyWatch, Luff admits that lawsuits against property owners where a mass shooting has occurred are new territory, and these cases could establish new case law on the liability that property owners have to protect citizens.

This past week, MGM Resorts International agreed to pay up to $800 million dollars to settle suits that were filed by victims and families of the Mandalay Bay shooting two years ago. This case has been on the radar of legal analysts all over as it had the potential to rewrite laws that had once released commercial property owners of any culpability when a mass casualty happened on their property.

Despite the $800 million estimate, the settlement will most likely only end up costing MGM Resorts around $49 million out-of-pocket. Their insurance coverage limits will cover up to $751 million. While this settlement goes a long way in helping victims financially, it did little to set precedent in clarifying potential culpability for property owners.

Investment vs. Liability

What these suits do bring to light is the increasing liability mass shootings are bringing to property owners, and the potential price tag to insurance companies. The unfortunate reality is, mass shootings have been steadily on the rise in the United States since the mid 1990’s. For corporations, school districts and insurance companies, this trend could have serious financial implications. This of course unless they make investments now into improved threat detection and response systems.

But making this investment isn’t easy. Is simply contracting or hiring armed security guards enough or do property owners and businesses need to be looking at other, more hi-tech options? This answer really depends on the security goal of the business. Are physical security elements, like the stationing of armed security at entrances, enough to deter a mass shooting, or are more complex, and less obvious threat detection systems needed?

For companies and schools considering arming staff or teachers, they need to look at additional liability mitigation that may result from unauthorized access to weapons, accidental discharges, and other potential unsafe acts that may increase legal or financial liabilities. This means having comprehensive training and weapon storage plans and access logs for when weapons are accessed. Safe systems like the Guardian and Overwatch from A.S.R.S are cost effective, secure ways for businesses and schools to safely secure threat response tools, and reduce or eliminate additional liability.

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