Examples of Civil and Criminal Security Guard Lawsuits
The following are example situations in which guards are responsible for breaking certain laws and a lawsuit may be filed against them. These are the most common of lawsuits, although there are many more out there.
If a guard enters an area they are not authorized to enter, they could be charged with trespassing under the same rules as a private citizen. A guard should only patrol areas they are authorized to by their employer.
A guard can be found guilty of criminal or civil battery for even slightly touching another person, if the touching was not authorized. Avoid touching a subject unless you are physically attacked first and need to physically defend yourself.
A guard can be found guilty of criminal or civil assault, if the guard made a threatening gesture and the subject thought the gesture would result in harm. A gesture is considered to be actions, tone of voice and physical movements. A guard should remain professional and calm at all times to avoid threatening a subject.
A guard can be found guilty of the civil charge of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on another person. A guard must pay special attention when interacting with children, the elderly, the sick, the handicapped and pregnant women. Society views treatment of these individuals differently than for the general population. Also, the actions of a security guard are viewed differently than those of a private person. A security officer should always remember that their actions will be reviewed at a later time when emotions are not running high like they might have been during an incident. It could be ruled that a guard acted in a severe or outrageous manner.
A guard can be charged with false imprisonment for the unlawful confinement, detention or restriction of a person's freedom. Illegal detention is the only requirement to prove false imprisonment. Even a brief instant of illegal detention will get a security guard in legal trouble. Words, gestures, threats or the perception that a person is not free to go, not just illegal physical detention, constitutes false imprisonment.
Merchant Law allows some store owners and their employees and agents, such as security guards, some protection against false imprisonment claims, if there is reasonable belief the person has unpaid merchandise in their possession. If a shoplifter consented to the detention, a false imprisonment claim cannot be proven. However, a guard should still be extremely cautious when interacting shoplifters. A guard should follow the exact wording given to them by their supervisor or the mall owner when confronting a possible shoplifter.
Libel / Slander
Written or spoken defamation can take the form of words, pictures, speech, signed language or any other form of communication between people. The communication must be published or posted in some manner that it could be heard, read or received by a person other than the victim. If a guard says loudly in the middle of Macy's, "I caught this shoplifter with a leather coat," and the person turns out to be a sales clerk returning the coat to the rack, the guard is guilty of defamation.
A guard causing injury to a person or property by using unreasonable force or taking unreasonable risk can be charged with negligence. The guard's employer can also be charged with negligence due to the guard's actions. Failure to act on the part of the guard or the guard's employer can also be negligence. A guard operating a company vehicle in reckless manner is also considered negligence.
Invasion of Privacy
If a guard intrudes on a person's privacy or physical solitude or discloses private information about a person, the guard could be found guilty of invasion of privacy. Phone tapping or unauthorized entry into a person's vehicle are examples of invasion of privacy.
Premise liability suits are when the owner of the property is held accountable for a crime committed on the property. Crimes in parking lots result in lawsuits against property owners more often than crimes in other parts of the property. Apartment and condominium complexes are sued most often, followed by office buildings, restaurants, hotels and retail stores. Lawsuits occur most often in the states of CA, NY, TX and FL.