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by Ron Davis
The insurer for a security firm hired to provide protection at a Delaware shopping center will have to pay at least some of the defense costs resulting from the lawsuit of a woman who was abducted at the center.
The shopping center is Dover Mall in Dover, and the abduction occurred in the center’s parking lot reserved for tenant employees. The victim had parked her car and was walking to her job at the Sears store located in the center when an assailant with a weapon accosted her. The abduction resulted in the rape of the woman.
She sued the owners and operators of Dover Mall and the company under contract to provide security there. She claimed that they failed to take preventive measures to protect her.
The contract between Dover Mall and the security firm included an agreement that the security firm would purchase insurance to cover Dover Mall under circumstances related to safety. So after settling with the abduction victim, Dover Mall’s owners sought reimbursement for legal and settlement costs.
The security’s firm insurer initially argued that it wasn’t responsible for defending Dover Mall. But after a trial by jury, the insurer acknowledged that the grounds were sufficient to trigger an obligation to Dover Mall.
The court agreed, explaining, “The complaint alleges that the victim’s injuries were the result of the combined negligence of the security firm and Dover Mall. The contractual agreement provided that the security firm was to provide security and security recommendations to Dover Mall. Each of the charges could have been resolved if the security firm had provided adequate recommendations. Attacks in parking lots are foreseeable when proper security measures are not taken. As such, each of the charges [in this case] falls within the contractual language arising out of security operations.” (Home Insurance Co. v. American Insurance Group, 2003 WL 22683008 [Del.Super.])
Decision: November 2003
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