“Negligent-security” law, down Memory Lane

Eugene Volokh recalls (with a followup) a groundbreaking 1973 case in which the Tenth Circuit ruled that it could be found negligent for a supermarket to have installed a silent alarm that summoned the police when a holdup was in practice; a hostage was killed in the resulting shootout. The case is consistent with others in which lawyers have advanced theories summed up in the phrase “negligent provocation”.


  • I like the fact that both those entries feature comments defending the ruling!

  • The Tenth Circuit could be found negligent?

  • WTF?

    No wonder things are as screwed up as they are! How about a finding of liability against the people ROBBING the store? Without their actions none of this would have happened. I would love to say what I really think here, but, it would violate the terms of use. When our legal system requires that policies be put into place that require people to co-operate with armed robbers, without resistance and then rely on the robbers not to kill them, we have a real problem.
    I have been robbed while on the job. The first time nothing happened, he got the money (less that $50). The second time, I was delivering a pizza and was walking back to my car, (he got $40) then he took a shot at me and I shot back. I was promptly fired. I was offered my job back a few weeks later. They couldn’t find anybody to work after one of the stores in our district had 5 people herded into the refridgerator and shot in the back of the head. The third time I was working in a convience store, a guy pulled a knife on me, I pulled a 9mm on him and called the Police. Again, I was promptly fired. Later I found out that the girl who had worked there before me was raped during a robbery.
    Look at that guy in New York a few weeks ago. One of the robbers was pistol whipping his clerk, when he opened fire and the New York Times was more interested in finding out if his shotgun was registered.
    Hell! The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was found to be 68% liable for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center!
    What if there wasn’t an alarm? Would the store have been liable if the employees and customers had been murdered? It seems to me that the only thing that stopped that from possibly happening was the arrival of the Police, due to the alarm.

  • The truly disturbing thing is that if they had not installed the silent alarm and the individual was killed in the course of the robbery the same lawyers would be filing the same suit, except claiming negligence for NOT installing a silent alarm.

  • Silent alarm. ….Police turn up…..Death…..Store liable
    Loud alarm…..Robbers panic……Death ….Store liable
    No alarm…..Christmas for Robbers……Death…..Store liable

    Would one of these liability lawyers with their brains the size of planets come up with a non-liable response that the store can use to stop themselves being robbed?
    Until they do they have proved themselves to be scum sucking pond life.

    (Reminds me of a Elf and Safty inspector I once had to deal with. He inspected a scheme of work I put together and declared it unsafe. I put together an alternative. He declared it unsafe. Put together another. He declared it unsafe. I ran out of ideas at that point so asked him what a safe scheme of work would be. He declared that it was not his job to come up with the ideas, just to tell other people they had got it wrong. It took several more weeks for senior management to realise that he was starting to close down the whole factory because he had every scheme of work to be unsafe. He was sacked. Why can’t we do the same for lawyers?)