Admittedly, most of our civil rights practice is aimed at bad cops and prison guards. That doesn’t mean others don’t abuse their power or use excessive force. A question we hear more and more everyday is, “Can I sue a security guard”?
Private security is everywhere around us. Hotels, casinos, hospitals, airports, government buildings, shopping malls, banks. Even some prisons and prisoner transportation companies are using private guards. The US has far more private security guards than police officers.
Unfortunately, the training offered to these folks is often minimal. Ditto for background checks.
We certainly are not demeaning the private security industry. We do believe that standards need to be raised, however. Especially when we allow those folks to carry weapons or detain people (and more and more guards are being armed).
A recent survey of hospitals indicates guards are getting armed more frequently.
Ninety – six percent of hospitals, which often see gang violence spill over into emergency rooms and whose guards must protect large quantities of narcotics, arm at least some of their security officers. 96% had batons or night sticks, 56% had pepper spray, 52% had guns, 47% had Tasers or other electrical weapons and 12% had dogs!
Hip Hop Musician Obie Trice Sues G4S and Marriott
In January, hip-hop musician Obie Trice sued the Detroit Renaissance Center (Detroit RenCen) and Marriott International. He claims he was illegally detained, choked and beaten by five guards working at the Marriott owned RenCen.
Trice says he was approached by a guard last April in the Detroit RenCen. The guard told him that the restrooms were for hotel guests only. Trice says he told the guard that he was planning on getting a room. The guard then followed him to the front desk where other guards also appeared.
After being taunted by the guards, Trice says he told the hotel desk staff that he no longer was interested in a room. That is when he says he was attacked by as many as five guards… guards armed with Tasers and pepper spray.
Trice says he was prevented from leaving, choked, beaten, pepper sprayed and handcuffed. He was then arrested and taken by the Detroit Police Department to jail where he spent the night.
The Renaissance Center guards are believed to be employees of G4S Secure Solutions, a large international security services firm.
In addition to the assault claims, Trice also believes that he was the victim of racial profiling and believes he was singled out because he was black.
Because the lawsuit was just filed, we do not know what Marriot or G4S has to say about the incident.
We do know, however, that security officers in Michigan are not required to have much in the way of training.
A typical police officer in Michigan is today required to possess a college degree, undergo a comprehensive background check including a psychological assessment and complete over 1000 hours of academy training.
A private armed security guard? Three hours on the range, shooting 30 rounds of ammunition and a couple hours in the classroom. That’s it. Unarmed guards in Michigan don’t have any minimum training requirements and don’t even have to be licensed (although the business that hires the guards must be.)
Suing the guard who illegally detained or assaulted you probably won’t yield much. It’s not that you can’t win but collecting could be difficult. Luckily, the property owner or tenant and the security service employing the guard may also be held responsible.
Common claims against security officers and armed guards include:
- False arrest
- Illegal detention / confinement
- Improper training
- Improper supervision
- Poor screening or background checks
Did You Suffer Serious Bodily Injury Caused by a Private Security Guard?
If you were illegally detained or injured by a private security guard, you have important legal rights.
Security guards in Michigan and elsewhere have a general duty to maintain order, protect guests and often, to prevent crimes (such as shoplifting).
They don’t enjoy the same immunities that law enforcement officers do meaning it is easier to sue a guard or security officer. (Private prison guards and prisoner transportation officers may have special protections depending on the state where they are working.)
No special immunities means that a guard or security officer can be sued for mere negligence. Negligence is a legal term that means acting carelessly.
Guards can use reasonable force and have the right to defend themselves. A common example is a bouncer at a club. At some point in our lives we have all witnessed an unruly drunk getting carried out of a club or music venue. That’s okay as long as the bouncers don’t use unreasonable force.
Things get tricky when the officers are armed.
Should they wait for police, especially if no one is in danger? Or should they use Tasers and pepper spray as was alleged by Trice? It’s a fine line and security officers frequently make the wrong call.
Unless someone was endangered there is usually never a reason to use weapons while waiting for police.
Can I Sue the Security Company? The Property Owner? Others?
Security companies, employers and property owners can often be held responsible for the acts of guards. That is why Trice is suing both G4S and Marriott, owner of the Detroit Renaissance Center.
These companies can be held responsible under several different legal theories including negligent hiring and improper training.
Several years ago, a bank was successfully sued by a widow after a mentally deranged bank guard shot her husband to death. Although the guard acted without provocation, the widow maintained that the bank “knew or should have known” of the guard’s mental instability yet still provided him with a weapon. (The guard was found incompetent to stand trial and committed to a mental hospital.)
We are currently involved in a case where an armed guard in a convenience store was showing off the “hair trigger” of his gun. In a store full of people! You guessed it. Behavior like this is well beyond negligent, it is reckless.
Can the store owner or guard be held responsible? In many instances, yes! Businesses have a responsibility to insure their guards are well screened, well supervised and, well trained.
As noted earlier, there are more armed guards in America than ever before. Yet many companies and facilities don’t have effective use of force policies or proper training. In states like Florida, in-house security teams are exempt from state security licensing requirements.
An eleven-year study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine indicated that 18% of security involved hospital shootings involved unarmed perpetrators. In 8% of hospital shootings, the perpetrators were able to take the officer’s gun!
Can You Sue a Security Guard?
Hopefully if you have read this far, you know the answer is yes. As American businesses and even the government rely more on private security guards, we expect more violent incidents will occur.
Guards and the companies that employ them can be held liable if the officers were negligent, careless, reckless or acted intentionally. The employer or guard company can also be sued if they did a poor job of hiring, screening, supervising or training their officers.
Our experienced trial lawyers are ready to help. Think you might have a case? Find out today.
Our group of lawyers have won many multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlements, with large cases pending in courts across the United States from Michigan, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts to California, Pennsylvania, and Washington and everywhere in between including Texas and Florida.
Call us today at 866.836.4684 for a free, confidential case review orConnect Online.