Facts: Lidia Giangrandi lived in a gated community that was protected by guards employed by a security services company that was obligated by contract to provide a patrolling guard. An intruder broke into Giangrandi’s home and killed her. The murderer was quickly captured and confessed to the crime. He said that he entered the gated community from a bicycle. He saw that a window to the victim’s apartment was slightly open. He waited two hours without seeing a security guard. The murderer cut through the window screen. The screen contained special wiring that if cut or broken would trigger an alarm. The alarm did not trigger due to faulty installation.
The Giangrandi family sued the alarm company and the security company for wrongful death. The alarm company settled with the family prior to trial. The case went to trial with the security company as the only defendant and the alarm company as a nonparty defendant. The jury found the alarm company and the security company equally at fault, and awarded damages of $4.78 million to the Giangrandi family.
Decision: The jury based its verdict on facts showing that a guard had not patrolled the premises for at least two hours and that an alarm system malfunctioned. The security company filed a motion for a new trial. The motion was denied. The security company then filed an appeal. The state court of appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The court noted that a new trial should be granted only when the weight of the trial evidence is contrary to a verdict reached by a jury. Here, the court of appeal concluded that the jury had not reached an unjust verdict. Under State law, a victim (or victim’s family) is entitled to a compensatory award when a breach of security allows a person to gain access to a property and inflict damage therein. The key elements of the breach were the failure of the guard company to ensure that the premises would be adequately patrolled and the failure of the alarm company to ensure that the alarm system worked. These two failures led to the murder of Lidia Giangrandi.
Implications: This case illustrates that great financial liability can result when a contract security services company fails to train and supervise its employees and when an alarm services company fails to properly install equipment and fails to make periodic checks to ensure that its equipment is in working order. 50 State Security Services, Inc. v. Giangrandi, No. 3D11-3329, Florida District Court of Appeal Nov. 27, 2013.