Negligent Security at Residential Properties

Posted by Stacey L. Pietrowicz

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The demand for security guards and property management has risen sharply with the boom of construction of luxury apartments and condos in the Boston area. But do these companies adequately research the people they hire to protect person and property?

Former security guard indicted for killing local physicians in their home

Following the murders of local physicians Richard Field and Lina Bolaños, former private security guard Bampumim Teixeira was indicted on June 28 for first-degree murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and armed home invasion.

The Macallen building where they lived should have been secure. To access the penthouse floor where the two lived required a key fob for the front door and a special elevator key. The building is also equipped with security cameras and a 24/7 concierge who alerts residents when guests arrive.

Security for the building was until recently provided by Palladion Services. Teixeira worked for Palladion at the Macallen building for several weeks.

Although it is unclear how Teixeira gained access to the penthouse, prosecutors believe he used his knowledge of the building’s layout and security measures from his time with Palladion.

Palladion stated that Teixeira passed their background and reference checks. However, their checks may have failed to uncover that Teixeira was suspected for a 2014 bank robbery and that his picture was posted on www.massmostwanted.org. Teixeira robbed the same bank in 2016, for which he was arrested, and at that time he admitted to both robberies.

When can security companies or management be found negligent for third-party acts?

Victims of foreseeable harmful acts by third-parties may have claims against negligent property owners, security companies or management companies. The owners or providers may be liable for negligent hiring, retention, or supervision of an employee who caused harm.

To prevail on a claim for negligent hiring, the plaintiff must show:

  1. That the employer failed to exercise due care in selecting the employee,
  2. That the employer knew or should have known that the employee posed a danger to people who would come in contact with the employee, and
  3. That the employer’s failures caused the plaintiff’s injury.

To prevail on a claim of negligent security, the plaintiff would need to prove that the owner, security company or management company:

  1. Had a duty to provide reasonable measures to protect people from foreseeable harmful risks posed by third parties,
  2. Did not take reasonable measures, and
  3. That failure to do so caused the harm.

In determining whether a risk is foreseeable, the courts look at many case-specific factors, such as the location of the property and whether it may attract crime, available security measures such as cameras and guards, and any defects in a security system, to name a few.

Market demand does not excuse negligence

The demand for security seems to be outstripping the supply. Even the federal Immigrations and Customs agencies are having a hard time hiring qualified candidates.

It remains to be seen whether Palladion Services, the management company or property owner for the Macallen building can be held liable in conjunction with the tragic murders of Ms. Bolanos and Mr. Fields.

This case raises the question whether the growing demand for private security has resulted in failures to properly check employment candidates’ backgrounds. Notably, security guards are not regulated and do not require a license in Massachusetts.

When it comes to security, shortcuts benefit no-one, and there is no excuse for negligence.

SUGARMAN has extensive experience litigating premises liability and negligent security claims on behalf of those who have been injured. If you have been injured as a result of negligent security measures in your home or someone else’s home, and wish to speak to one of our attorneys regarding liability, please fill out a Contact Form, call us at 617-542-1000 or e-mail info@sugarman.com.