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Security Force Negligence: Violation of Public Safety

An important public safety issue that is frequently ignored, is the background required to be and training required of a private security force. We might be dealing with a private security force, guard service or individual security guard, or, in the entertainment field, we might be dealing with a “bouncer” or crowd control security force. While these security forces are charged with responsibility for public safety, similar to public police officers, they may lack the training and expertise provided to public police officers. Thus, their individual reactions to various incidents they may encounter may vary, based their age, training, background, experience, intelligence, approach, temperament, and other similar common sense factors. They are not necessarily taught/trained to exercise the judgment and restraint that might be part of a public law enforcement education or training program.

A Fresno County jury on August 20, 2009, awarded $535,000 in damages to a poker player who said that casino security guards cuffed him and lifted his arms behind his back, which caused him to suffer a left torn rotator cuff. Reportedly, the incident happened following his argument with a dealer. The injury has required three surgeries and may require additional surgery, as well.

After deliberating for two days, seven hours total, the jury awarded plaintiff, Nshan Minasian, $400,000 for medical bills and $135,000 for pain and suffering. Attorneys for the casino argued that the guards acted appropriately and that Minasian was primarily responsible for the escalation of the incident. They plan to ask the judge for a reduction in the award.

I do not pass judgment on the conduct of this particular security force in this particular case; although the jury’s verdict does tend to indicate that its members did not buy the casino’s argument that the plaintiff escalated the violence. The verdict suggests that the guards crossed the line, creating casino liability. There are important safety issues raised by verdicts and cases like this: What was the experience level of the security force? What training did they have? Did they undergo a formal training program? What rules and regulations for handling a ‘troublemaker’ existed and were posted? What prompted them to use the level of force that was used? How much of a threat did the plaintiff pose to them or to the public? How much restraint did they show? What would a trained police officer have done in the same or similar circumstance?

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