Generally, the victim of a security guard’s bad acts or negligence (false imprisonment, excessive use of force, wrongful detention) may bring a civil lawsuit in Georgia to recover damages for the victim’s resulting injuries. However, because recovering damages in a civil suit requires money, whether it be via a corporate entity with deep pockets or via insurance coverage, a more important question is, “can any corporate defendants also be held responsible for the individual security officer’s acts?” When looking at corporate entities to sue in a case involving a bad acting security guard, Georgia attorneys should investigate the case to see if the property owner who hired the security guard and/or the security company who employed the guard can be held responsible for the guard’s behavior.
Under Georgia law, property owners have the ultimate duty of care, or the responsibility to its customers, tenants, visitors, or other people who are lawfully on the property, to keep the property safe. This responsibility includes making sure that the security guard or security guard company is one that will properly ensure the safety of the people who are lawfully present on the property. Under some circumstances, a property owner can be held liable for the security guards intentionally bad acts, crimes, or unintentional acts/negligent acts. Examples of intentional bad acts include using excessive force, such as assaulting or shooting someone unnecessarily or wrongfully detaining or arresting someone. Examples of negligence include not being on the property when required or failing to follow certain safety protocols and procedures.
Many property owners hire private security companies to keep their properties safe. Thus, it is possible for a victim of a security guard’s bad or negligent acts to sue the security company that employed the guard. Under the Georgia law of respondeat superior or vicarious liability, an employer can be held responsible for an employee’s wrongful acts, if the employee was working within the course and scope of his or her employment. Secondly, an employer, such as a security company that employs a bad security guard, may be held responsible for the negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and training of a security guard who acts negligently or wrongfully. Thus, an attorney handling the case against the security company should investigate whether the employer checked the guard’s criminal history or work history before hiring him.