Premises Security Liability and Forensic Security

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Week 10: Premises Security Liability and Forensic Security

Our focus is on liability that security managers may face in supervising effective security programs. Shielding the organization from lawsuits by avoiding inadequate security claims is part of the responsibility of security managers. Effective security planning can mitigate such risks.

For our discussion this week, we consider a case involving the security assessment of a parking lot at a commercial establishment. These are areas are often found to have vulnerabilities in terms of reasonably foreseeable threats and where customers or guests may become crime victims.

Consider the following Wal-Mart case. Review the case and note the applicable legal liability principles and factors that are important in determining whether the case should be decided for or against the plaintiff. After you have addressed the application of the legal principles to the relevant facts, provide your well-reasoned conclusion and opinion about how the case should be decided.

If you decide that Wal-Mart is legally liable, what do you believe they should settle for?

Also, note what you believe a business like Wal-Mart should provide as reasonable security measures to protect their employees, customers and their property?

Wal-Mart Sued By Abductee’s Husband

By Kenneth A. Gailliard, The Sun News

CONWAY – The husband of a Galivants Ferry woman is suing Wal-Mart for $10 million more than three years after two men abducted her from the parking lot of the retail giant’s Conway store and killed her.

The lawsuit accuses Wal-Mart of negligence and carelessness that resulted in Alice Donovan’s injuries and death.

Donovan’s husband, Barry, declined comment Wednesday, and his lawyer, Geoffrey H. Waggoner of Charleston, could not be reached.

Donovan has asked for a jury trial. No date has been set.

A pair of jail escapees abducted Donovan immediately after she drove into the Wal-Mart parking lot off U.S. 501. They then forced her to drive away from the parking lot in her car and into Brunswick County, N.C. They later killed her. Her body has not been found.

Federal juries convicted Chadrick Fulks and Branden Basham of her murder. Fulks received South Carolina’s first federal death sentence, and Basham received the second.

Allegations in the lawsuit include that Wal-Mart failed to adequately monitor and control its premises, to effectively protect its patrons, to warn patrons of the nature and extent of crimes committed on the premises, and to ensure that existing security procedures were followed.

The suit also says Wal-Mart should have been aware of the potential for violent crimes to happen in its parking lot.

Wal-Mart spokesman Martin Heires said the company secures its parking lots, though he did not elaborate.

Premise liability suits are common and around 90 percent of them result in settlements.

Donovan drove into the store lot about 2:30 p.m. unaware the men who pulled in behind her were escapees from a Kentucky jail riding in a stolen truck they wanted to ditch.

When she pulled into a parking space at the store, Basham jumped from the truck, got into Donovan’s BMW and forced her to drive to the back of the parking lot.

There Fulks abandoned the truck and the two men forced Donovan to drive away. Police said the men drove her into Brunswick County, N.C., later that day, but police have not been able to determine where they took her.

Both men gave police several stories about her whereabouts, and extensive searches were conducted for her in North and South Carolina.

Prior to kidnapping Donovan, Fulks and Basham were in West Virginia, where they kidnapped and killed college student Samantha Burns.

Both men received life sentences in that state for Burns’ death.

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