The Legal Side: A dangerous precedent for alarm co. liability

ADT case in federal court could potentially establish precedent despite clear criminal act from a third party


In other words, ADT would be on the hook for the entire damage award if found liable at all for negligence.

The decision notes that after the motion was made ADT withdrew the part of the motion which sought dismissal of the negligence cause of actions. We don't get to see the motion in the decision so I don't know if ADT tried to enforce its exculpatory clause or limitation of liability clauses, to the extent those clauses exist in the ADT contract. Apparently ADT decided to leave that issue for the trial or later motion. Good luck.

Facts of the Case

The case has some interesting facts and for those who don't want to read through the actual decision, here are a few.

"On July 29, 2006, Van Keuren, Lee's ex-boyfriend, assaulted Lee in her home in Lake Elmo, Minnesota. On August 3, 2006, after Van Keuren had been arrested, charged, and released on bond, Lee and her current boyfriend, Hawkinson, purchased an ADT security system to protect Lee's home. Defendants allege that Lee and Hawkinson informed ADT's sales representative that they were purchasing the security system in order to protect against any additional attacks by Van Keuren. Hawkinson, who often stayed at Lee's home, told the sales agent that he had a license to carry a handgun, and that his primary concern was having enough notice to prepare to use it." (Trustee Am. Answer, Docket No. 56, P 49.)

On the day of the sale, the sales agent performed a walk-through [*3] at Lee's home. The agent agreed that exposed outside phone lines and sliding glass doors leading outside from Lee's basement were vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an intruder. (Id., PP 64, 68.) The agent allegedly indicated that with an ADT security system, if someone cut the exterior phone lines, an alarm would sound. (Id., PP 73-74.) The agent also allegedly recommended a sensor that would sound an alarm if the sliding glass door was broken. (Id., P 65.) Finally, the sales representative recommended motion detectors that would sound an alarm if an intruder entered Lee's basement. (Id., P 67.) Defendants contend that Lee and Hawkinson accepted all of the agent's recommendations, without indicating they were limited to a specific budget or that they otherwise wished to forego any relevant enhancements to their security system. (Id., P 70.)

The security system was installed in Lee's home on August 7, 2006. Defendants allege that ADT's installer did not enable a feature in her security system that would have monitored the integrity of her telephone lines. (Id., PP 103-04.) Defendants also allege that when the installer realized there were not enough glass-break detectors designated [*4] for Lee's basement, he used the available detectors for windows, and did not install a glass-break detector over the sliding glass doors. (Id., at P 123.) Finally, defendants allege that Lee and Hawkinson were not informed of additional motion-sensor options that would have made it possible to arm the sensors in the basement, but disarm the sensors on the floor of the home where they were sleeping. (Id., P 133.)

On September 22, 2006, Van Keuren broke into Lee's home again and shot and killed both Lee and Hawkinson. Van Keuren allegedly carried out the murders after cutting the phone lines to the home, breaking the sliding glass door in the basement, and walking past several basement motion detectors. The alarm system allegedly failed to go off until two of Lee's children fled through the front door. All four of Lee's children were in the house at the time of the attack, and three of the children allegedly witnessed their mother's murder."