THE BEST WAY TO AVOID A LAW SUIT IS TO KEEP IT FROM BEING FILED; THE BEST WAY TO ENCOURAGE A LAW SUIT IS TO PRETEND NO WRONG OCCURRED AND/OR TRY TO COVER IT UP! .....Charles Sennewald & John Christman. Shoplifting - Managing the Problem, ASIS 2006.
These words should hang in every retail manager's and loss prevention office.
In the world of retail security, no truer words were ever spoken. In my consulting practice, I provide expert witness and litigation support services to plaintiff and defense attorneys. Many cases are where the loss prevention agent made a mistake and if they had just admitted their mistake and apologized to the customer; litigation could have been avoided. As an example, a customer is stopped by a store's security department for suspected theft. The customer is escorted to the loss prevention office where they are detained and interrogated for a period of time and then it's determined the customer didn't possess any stolen merchandise.
In the retail security industry, this is generally referred to as a "non-productive detainment" or "bad stop." Mistakes happen and if the retailer could just admit a mistake occurred, sincerely apologize and give the customer a gift certificate, many of these mistakes would never see the light of litigation.
Law suits are very costly to defend. Some of the costs include, attorney fees, expert witness fees, deposition fees, and filing fees. All of these costs and fees can amount to $100,000 or more and this is just to successfully defend a law suit. Not to mention the effect on your business due to adverse publicity. If it's decided, by the parties involved, to settle the law suit the amount rises. If the case doesn't settle and goes to court the costs skyrocket. Jury awards are almost always much higher that a settlement. If the case is especially grievous, involving injuries or negligence, the jury may award punitive damages. Punitive damages are just what the term implies. Such damages are designed to punish the retailer for aggravated circumstances. This punitive cost, in many jurisdictions, is not covered by insurance. They hit the retailers bottom line.
Some steps retailers should take to avoid litigation include:
- never making a "bad stop"
- never make a bad arrest
- never use excessive force
- never improperly search a customer
- never fail to fully investigate a suspects protests of innocence
- never fail to admit errors
- never fail to apologize when in the wrong.
The goal of every retailer is to make a profit. Avoiding litigation is a big step in reaching that goal.
Curtis Baillie - Security Consulting Strategies, LLC