Defective security system cited in suit against N.C. bank

Suit alleges alarm system could have spared tellers trauma from robbery


DURHAM, N.C. -- Two tellers injured in a holdup at a Cardinal State Bank branch are suing the bank, claiming it illegally fired them in retaliation for filing workers' compensation claims.

Among other things, the suits also allege that Cardinal State failed to repair a defective security system that -- had it been working properly -- might have spared the tellers from physical and emotional trauma.

The plaintiffs in the newly filed court complaints are Theresa A. Davis and her husband, Jeremiah Davis, and Elvira R. Simmons and her husband, James M. Simmons Jr.

The suits were drafted by lawyers Deborah N. Meyer and Lisa M. Schreiner.

No response was available Monday from the bank.

"We haven't seen the complaint or been served with it yet," said Executive Vice President Harold Parker. "Obviously, we have no comment."

According to the suits, a man with a handgun ordered Theresa Davis and Elvira Simmons to empty their cash drawers on Aug. 10, 2007, then forced them into a vault before demanding more money and fleeing the scene.

The gunman is quoted in the suits as warning his victims, "I have one thing more for you ladies" -- a comment they interpreted as a death threat.

The women escaped through a back door, only to fall down a 10-foot, 60-degree embankment, according to the suits.

The suits say Simmons suffered soft-tissue damage to her wrist, a hairline fracture to her right elbow and significant psychological trauma, while Davis sustained lacerations to her right arm and both knees in addition to psychological damage.

Davis subsequently was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the robbery, according to one of the lawsuits.

The other suit says Simmons "experienced feelings of helplessness and horror. She believed she would be killed immediately after the robbery."

Both women were granted workers' compensation benefits, and both were wrongfully and illegally terminated from their jobs for filing such claims, the lawsuits add.

The two then filed written complaints with the N.C. Department of Labor, which found "reasonable cause" to believe their allegations were true and authorized them to commence civil litigation against Cardinal State Bank, the suits say.

According to the suits, the Highgate Drive bank branch had repeatedly been advised that its alarm system -- including a metal detector -- was not functioning properly.

The bank could reasonably have foreseen that its failure to repair the system might bring harm to employees if a robbery occurred, the suits add.

In addition, the bank failed to provide immediate and necessary psychiatric counseling for the two traumatized tellers, the suits contend.

Both women further allege that the robbery and its after-effects caused them to lose the "marital services, society, affection, companionship or sexual relations" they once enjoyed with their spouses.

The former tellers deserve punitive financial damages because Cardinal State Bank's conduct involved "actual malice, a gross and willful wrong, insult, rudeness, indignity or a reckless and wanton disregard" for their rights, according to the lawsuits.