On behalf of Jeffrey Samel & Partners posted in Negligent Security Defense on Wednesday, November 12, 2014.

A claim of inadequate security leading to a brutal assault, rape or even murder of an innocent victim carries with it an emotional impact that creates problems for any defense team. Such problems are made even worse when the criminal assailant turns out to be one of the security officers your client hired to protect the tenants and visitors at a particular building.

That is the task that we assumed when asked to defend a client that provided security services at an office building in midtown Manhattan. One of the security officers guarding the building during the July 4th holiday left his post in the lobby to escort a female attorney to her office, and instead, took her to a vacant area of the building where he assaulted and attempted to rape her.

After completing pre-trial discovery, we moved for summary judgment on behalf of the security company. A similar motion was made by separate counsel for the co-defendant building owner. The lower court denied the building owner’s motion as untimely, but granted our summary judgment motion. The lower court ruled that the plaintiff had not proven that the security company had prior notice of the assailant’s vicious propensities, nor had plaintiff proven that another security guard’s failure to stop the assailant from leaving his post had been a behad been en a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury.

The plaintiff argued against this decision on appeal. However, we were successful in obtaining a decision from the Appellate Division, First Department, in the case of Jane Doe v. Madison Third Building Companies, et al., affirming the lower court’s granting of summary judgment. The Appellate Division agreed with the arguments we made in both the summary judgment motion and on appeal that the plaintiff failed to establish both prior notice and proximate cause. Interestingly, the appellate court also upheld the lower court’s denial of the motion for summary judgment on behalf of the co-defendant building owner based on untimeliness, proving that strict adherence to technical requirements in making such motions is essential.