Monitoring Missteps Cost Provider $8.6M
The customer of a national monitoring company was beaten and sexually assaulted in her home. An investigation found the provider recklessly breached its duties to the plaintiff due to egregious central station procedures. The case reinforces applying best practices and minimizing liability exposure.
11:33 a.m. — A response was made to a garage door signal. An EDO contacted police and attempted to reach the victim at her workplace; however, the call was again disconnected by the EDO without pressing 1 or holding for an operator. The investigation revealed the EDO falsified the monitoring account by typing “Answering service, no message per business.”
12:06 p.m. — The police department phoned the monitoring center to confirm they had received a second request for dispatch to the premise, but before doing so they required a key holder to be present. An EDO falsely told police the monitoring center so far had only been able to leave voice messages for her.
(Note: The police eventually dispatched to the home later in the day, but because there were no signs of forcible entry they did not investigate further. Also, the victim’s sister was eventually reached by an EDO and she drove to the victim’s house. However, she arrived at the premise without a key and therefore did not enter to verify the burglar alarm. The victim’s sister was not made aware of the multitude of alarm activity at the premise.)
1:06 p.m. — A motion signal is received upon which an EDO phones the victim’s workplace and this time presses 1 to reach a live attendant. After waiting for the victim to be paged, the EDO would eventually be told she had already left for the day.
Woman’s Fateful Return Home
During the trial it was disclosed the intruder had been drinking heavily while he waited for his victim’s arrival, which came at about 7:30 p.m.
The woman entered her home, as she always had done before, through the garage door. Her normal routine would be to then disarm her alarm system within 30 seconds. Only this time the actual alarm signaled as she went to put her key into the door lock. The phone rang. An EDO was on the line to verify the alarm signal and to ask if everything was OK. The woman said she was fine, but was curious why the alarm had triggered without giving her the allotted time to disarm it. The EDO asked if the woman entered through the garage door and she answered affirmatively.
According to court transcripts of the actual phone call, the EDO replied: “That’s probably the reason why it went off. You only have a delay time on the front door.” The investigation would establish that the information the EDO provided regarding the garage door being an instant zone, and not on delay time, was pure guesswork. The EDO had no way of knowing those types of details about the security system.
The phone call with the EDO lasted for only 35 seconds. At no time during the call was the woman made
aware of the day’s alarm activity, the police dispatch, nor that her sister had been contacted.
Soon after the phone call with the EDO concluded, the woman testified she entered the bathroom to wash her face. As she reached for a towel to dry herself, the intruder grabbed her arm and began his extensive assault.
Litany of Ominous Conclusions
Following is a partial list of conclusions Zwirn made during his investigation of the monitoring firm’s operating procedures and actions by its EDOs:
- The firm acted recklessly by concealing material facts from the plaintiff as to its procedures to not notify subscribers after receiving multiple alarm signals from the premise.
- The firm acted recklessly by concealing its procedures to put an account on test after receiving multiple alarm signals from a protected premise.
- The firm acted recklessly by concealing material facts from the plaintiff as to its policy of not disclosing that it is acceptable for its monitoring operators not to leave a message as to alarm signals being received.
- The duration and frequency of alarm activity received by the firm was both scientifically and technically consistent with an actual criminal event occurring within the subject premises, and most importantly that the perpetrator did not leave the victim’s home.
- The firm’s EDOs recklessly disregarded safety rules, which was in gross deviation to nationally recognized industry standards and practices and was not at all appropriate.
- A singular alarm signal, or in this case multiple alarms triggered from different zones of the residential alarm system, should never be “full cleared” if the subscriber is not appropriately warned and notified.
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