Security Company Liable for Negligence in Georgia

In a 2013 case a woman was sexually assaulted by someone who broke into her house while she was at work and stayed there, although she triggered the alarm system. She sued the company that she had paid to monitor the security system on the grounds of negligence. The company moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and new trial. These were denied by the trial court.
The company appealed, arguing that the trial court should have found that there were no issues of material fact on the negligence claim and that the limitation of liability clause was enforceable, and that the court should have instructed the jury on assumption of risk, among other things.
The woman had purchased her security system from Tel-Star Alarms. It installed the system. She gave the company her work phone and designated her older sister as an emergency contract. A clause limited the company’s liability to $250. Less than a month after the purchase, Tel-Star assigned her contract to Monitronics, the defendant. It had the responsibility of monitoring her security.
In 2006, the plaintiff went to her job at Target. After 10:00 a.m., an internal motion sensor was triggered. The defendant’s representative called her house and dispatched the police. The representative tried to contact her at work but did not follow through, calling her sister instead.
She did not reach the sister. Alarms continued to go off. Monitronics again called the police and finally reached the sister. The sister said she would go over,but didn’t. A Monitronics representative continued to try to reach the plaintiff, but by that time she had gone to her second job.
The police said they would not go to her house unless someone with a key was there to meet them. No further alarms were triggered that afternoon, and Monitronics did not try any further to contact the woman, her sister, or the police. The plaintiff came home that evening. Her sister had left a note about the alarms, but she didn’t see it and didn’t know there was a potential intruder.
The plaintiff went inside to turn off the alarm, and a Monitronics representative called her. Although the rep had access to the records of earlier alarms going off that day, she told the plaintiff it was because the door didn’t have a delay timer.
The plaintiff went to her bedroom and saw items she didn’t recognize on her nightstand. She called her sister and left her a message. As she was getting ready for bed, the intruder grabbed her waving a knife. The assailant forced her to drive to an ATM to withdraw money, threatened her life, and raped her. He had been drinking tequila all day and passed out. She escaped and called the police from her neighbors’ house. The police arrested him, and he pled guilty.
She sued Monitronics for breach of contract, negligence, and fraudulent misrepresentation. The defendant filed for summary judgment, claiming it had no duty beyond the contract terms and claiming the contract limited its liability to $250. The trial court denied the motion, ruling that there were issues of fact about whether Monitronics breached a duty of care owed to the woman, causing her injuries, and also found the liability limitation was not applicable.
The case went to trial. The jury found for the plaintiff, finding that Monitronics didn’t exercise ordinary care and increased danger to the plaintiff. It did not award punitive damages. Monitronics asked the court to grant it judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
The appellate court explained that, in Georgia, a person can be held liable for negligent performance of a voluntary undertaking. That meant that the security system could be held liable for injury resulting from a purely voluntary and gratuitous undertaking. The plaintiff would not have stayed in the house had Monitronics made sure she knew of the multiple alarms. The court affirmed the judgment.
If you are hurt or a loved one is killed due to negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. Experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune can evaluate your case and fight for any compensation you may deserve. Contact us at 404-875-7800 or via our online form.
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