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


"The Court adds that the facts of this case underscore the relevance and fairness of this approach. The core of defendants' claims against ADT is that ADT promised to provide a security system that would provide certain protections against intruders, and failed to do so. Defendants allege that as a direct consequence of these failures, Lee was left vulnerable to Van Keuren's attack. In those circumstances, allowing ADT to invoke comparative fault may well be to allow ADT to shirk the precise duty that it assumed, and possibly escape liability altogether, as many juries asked to determine who was comparatively more responsible for Lee's death -- an allegedly negligent security company or the person who actually pulled the trigger -- would likely lean overwhelmingly toward Van Keuren. Cf. Veazey, 650 So.2d at 719. In those circumstances, the Court concludes that it is likely that Minnesota would adopt the view advanced in the Restatement, and would prevent ADT from limiting its exposure to liability to the extent of its fault. Accordingly, ADT's motion for summary judgment [*31] as to the comparative fault of Van Keuren is denied.

"Defendants add in their pleadings that Hawkinson had a license to carry a handgun, and had one within arm's reach at the time of the murders. In other words, it is not inconceivable that the sounding of an alarm could have changed the tragic results of Van Keuren's attack."

About the author: Ken Kirschenbaum, Esq., is a New York-licensed lawyer practicing with Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC, a Long Island legal firm with a rich history of assisting clients in security and alarm related matters. Ken can be contacted via email at ken@kirschenbaumesq.com. His website, www.kirschenbaumesq.com, features a great supply of legal information and court rulings relevant to the security industry. You can also sign up for Ken's discussion list from his homepage.