Mall robberies and public liability

The robbery of a local PEP store in Mabopane last week, where R350 000 as well as CCTV video footage was stolen, has highlighted the need for store owners to implement adequate security measures to mitigate the risk of liability claims.

This is according to Simon Colman, Underwriting Executive at SHA Specialist Underwriters  – who says that while customer safety must always be a main priority, retail store owners must realise that liability risks can extend beyond this.

“In addition, business owners should make sure that they employ reputable security companies that have their own liability insurance in place and must clarify (by contract) which party is responsible and liable for security related issues.”
He adds that store owners and employees should be mindful of the rights of their customers. Complaints made against retailers where it is alleged that certain customers are being discriminated against as being suspected shoplifters or criminals, can lead to litigation as well. “Furthermore, we have all heard horror stories where suspected criminals are detained in store rooms or freezers. Such events can quickly turn into allegations of wrongful arrest against the retailer.”

He says that managing such events with proper training and accredited security personnel goes some way to mitigate risk. “If these actions are taken without sufficient cause, store owners will not only face defense costs and possible fines, but will suffer great reputational harm.”
Colman says that broadform public liability policies are best suited to protect organisations within the retail environment as they cover a wide range of legal liabilities. “These policies are designed to come to the assistance of businesses when an allegation of injury or damage is made. The cover is in respect of both legal defence costs and in respect of court awards. Should cover be required for employee fraud or theft, employers can add commercial crime cover to their insurance portfolio..

“For stores that are located in a shopping mall, it is best for shopkeepers to have their own policies in place, rather than assuming that they are covered by the overall policy of the shopping mall. Third party attorneys may target the property owner, the shopkeeper and the security company respectively in a suit,” concludes Colman.

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