Think "liability" if you want to stay out of trouble.

I speak a lot about liability, but not everyone gets it.

I have seen medical doctors, dentists, business people of all walks of life and lawyers (it is surprising how many lawyers disregard liability)pay little attention to potential lawsuits. The latest category to leave themselves open, have been auctioneers.

The current foreclosure crisis has meant that many properties are being auctioned off. We have been providing security officers at some of the properties in order to make sure that people do not try to steal or commit vandalism when viewing the houses. There was an incident recently in which a bidder decided to withdraw his offer after his bid became the winning bid. He probaly got cold feet.

While he should not have reneged on his offer to buy the property, it was a civil matter best left to civil remedy. Unfortunately, the auctioneers involved decided to take the law into their own hands and would not let the man leave the property. The man became anxious and informed them that he was having difficulty breathing and needed to go to his car for his asthma medication.

Was this true? Maybe, maybe not – but would it be wise to gamble with a person’s health when you already had their personal details and you could easily have obtained his vehicle registration if he decided to leave?
Thankfully, our security officer knew better that to get involved with blocking the man’s way. The auctioneers stood in front of his vehicle and yelled at him. Eventually the man drove off.

If you represent a financial institution, a law firm or an auctioneering firm, you need to think twice before you act inappropriately. I have no doubt that had that man had a serious attack and if he died as a result, his next of kin would have sued for umpteen millions. When it comes to situations like this, you need to think rationally and realize what is involved. What was the worse thing that could have happened when the person decided to renege on his offer?

Apparently, he would have signed forms and the like and most probably he could be sued civilly for not fulfilling his obligations after delivering the winning bid. At the end of the day, the note holder would be in a strong position. Even if the person had given false information and could not be subsequently located, all they had to do was to put the property back on the market. What could that have cost, a couple of thousand in extra advertising and the like? That would have been much better than having to pay the next of kin many millions – not to mention the bad publicity.

We talk a lot about liability because it is a very real threat. Think “threat mitigation”. Those who do not, may pay a very high price.

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  1. Bryan Cox, Security Consultant and Technician says:

    You are absolutely correct. It is a challenge for anyone offering guard or loss prevention services to properly educate their clients, or potential clients, on these issues.

    The irony is that, especially in subcontracted loss prevention and robbery suppression, clients see the primary benefit as risk transference. However, when they go with the lowest bidder, they run a serious risk of getting no more than they pay for.

    Personnel who not properly versed in liability areas such as kidnapping, false arrest, defamation, slander, libel, and other matters can invite more liability exposure onto the client than they may have otherwise had.

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