The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAREN, District Judge.
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW, AND MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
ORDER ON POST TRIAL MOTIONS
In this matter, plaintiff sued for the value of goods destroyed
in a fire set by a security guard employed by defendant. Counts
I and II of the complaint were tried to a jury on the theory of
negligent hiring. Count III was simultaneously tried to the Court
on the theory of statutory liability. The jury found for
plaintiff on Counts I and II, and the Court entered judgment for
plaintiff on Count III, adopting the jury's determination of
damages. Defendant has moved for judgment N.O.V. or a new trial
as to the negligence counts.
The Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law on Count
III are set forth first, followed by discussion of defendant's
allegations of error on the trial of Counts I and II.
The statute upon which Count III is based, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch.
38, § 201-10b(10), provides:
"The holder of a certificate of authority who
employs persons to assist him in the work of private
detective and in the conduct of such business shall
at all times during such employment be legally
responsible for the good conduct in the business of
each and every person so employed."
In denying defendant's motion to dismiss Count III, Judge Napoli
held at an earlier stage that 10b(10) was designed to subject
holders of certificates of authority to some measure of civil
liability. Plaintiff asserts that this liability extends to all
wrongful acts of employees of detective agencies, regardless of
whether they were negligently hired and whether the acts are
negligent or intentional, so long as they were committed while
the employee was actually on the job. Although Judge Napoli's
opinion may be interpreted to hold that 10b(10) broadens the
scope of liability to this extent, it did not specifically so
state. This Court is of the opinion that such is the proper
interpretation of the statute.
Black's Law Dictionary 1476 (rev. 4th ed.) defines
"responsible" as "liable, legally accountable or answerable."
Thus the plain language of the statute makes defendant answerable
for all acts of its employees in its business.
The construction urged by defendant would interpret 10b(10) as
simply reiterating the common law, thus attributing to the
legislature an idle act in adopting 10b(10). In Apex Smelting Co.
v. Burns, 175 F.2d 978, 981 (7th Cir. 1949), a case involving
facts very similar to those here, the court upheld a directed
verdict for defendant where (1) there had been no showing of
negligent hiring, and (2) respondeat superior was inapplicable
because the employee's act was intentional and therefore beyond
the scope of his employment. Section 201-10b was subsequently
The construction of 10b(10) contended for by plaintiff and
adopted by this Court accords the statute a meaning which is
consistent with its apparent purpose to remove from users of
agency services the burden of loss from intentional injury
inflicted by detective agency employees — which was the effect of
Apex — and place it upon the agencies as a cost of doing
business. Users are in no position to screen security employees;
the agencies are. And 10b(10), as here interpreted, provides a
substantial incentive for the agencies to do so with the utmost
The facts in this case are relatively simple. Defendant
employed one Anderson on a certain date and ordered him to duty
guarding a warehouse that night. Anderson was an applicant who
walked in off the street; defendant put him to work without
investigating his background, without testing his intelligence or
ability to read or write, and without requiring identification or
proof of age. The second night he was on duty, Anderson
deliberately set fire to the second floor of the warehouse. The
evidence is undisputed that plaintiff's property was stored on
the first and second floors of that warehouse; that the fire
proximately caused damage to the property; and that defendant was
a holder of a certificate of authority under the Illinois
Detective's Act. In light of the foregoing, and even viewing the
evidence most favorably to defendant, the Court concludes that
plaintiff is entitled to prevail, and defendant is liable to
plaintiff, under Section 10b(10) of the Act. Any other reading of
the Act, in the Court's view, would make the Act a nullity.
The judgment heretofore entered in favor of plaintiff and
against defendant in the sum of $142,246 is hereby reaffirmed.
The foregoing will stand as this Court's findings of fact and
conclusions of law ...