Have You Ever Left $600 At The Counter Of A UPS Store?

Security camera (pd)
Me neither, but that is what happened in Glenn v. Duroseau. In fact, plaintiff in that case alleged that she not only left the money on the counter but that, when she went back a few minutes later, it was gone. To make matters worse, the security camera in the store did not work, so there was no way to tall exactly what happened. The trial court originally held this against the store owner, holding that he had a duty to plaintiff to ensure that the security cameras were working, but this decision was reversed on appeal. 

In Glenn, plaintiff claimed that she walked into a UPS Store and placed her pocketbook on the counter, along with an envelope containing $600 in cash. When she left, she claimed that she took the pocketbook but not the envelope. She walked about four blocks away from the store before she realized that she was missing the envelope. When she returned to the store, the envelope was gone. She asked a store employee if he had seen it, but he responded that plaintiff did not leave an envelope in the store. Plaintiff became upset and called her boyfriend, who arrived and told the employee to give plaintiff her money back. The employee again denied that plaintiff had left an envelope in the store. 

Plaintiff then called the police. When police officers arrived, they asked if the security cameras in the store were working. The employee did not know, but called his boss, who arrived on the scene and promised to review the tapes. However, it turned out that the security cameras were not working. Plaintiff sued the store owner, seeking the return of her $600.

 

At trial, the judge asked defendant if he was concerned about someone accusing one of his employees of stealing money. Defendant tried to explain to the judge that he knew the employee and that the employee's father had worked for defendant for ten years, but the judge interrupted him and questioned defendant's faith in the employee since defendant had not "reviewed the camera." Defendant explained that the camera was not working, but the judge either did not accept this or did not understand it, because he ordered defendant to return to court with the "film" from the security camera so the judge could review it. [NOTE: the Appellate Division put "film" in quotes, presumably because "modern" cameras don't use film.] The judge then appeared to give defendant the option of either having the employee return the $600 — because the judge had apparently already concluded that the employee took it — or bring in the security camera. When defendant again tried to explain that the camera did not work, the judge "abruptly" awarded $600 to plaintiff. The judge made clear that he was not saying that defendant or his employee took the money, but that the customer had a right to believe that the camera was working and defendant was negligent for not making sure that it was.

Defendant appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed. It held that the trial court's ruling — that defendant was required to maintain a functioning security camera which would have established who took plaintiff's money — was "an extension of a business owner's duty to a patron [that] is untethered to any precedential or statutory authority." The Appellate Division noted that a business owner generally has a duty to protect patrons from "foreseeable criminal acts of third parties occurring on their premises." Moreover, the "crucial" element in determining whether a duty exists, and whether it is breached, is foreseeability. In Glenn, defendant testified that he had not experienced a threat similar to the one alleged by plaintiff in the four years that he owned the store.  Given this unrefuted testimony, and the similarly unrefuted testimony that defendant was unaware that the security camera did not work, "there was no basis to conclude that defendant was negligent in failing to maintain the security system and that this negligence was the proximate cause of plaintiff's loss."

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