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Blankenship v. Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

November 17, 2014

LESLIE BLANKENSHIP, Executrix of the Estate of Ellen Polivka, Plaintiff-Appellant,
SECURITAS SECURITY SERVICES USA, INC., d/b/a Burns International Security Services, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 06 L 05894. Honorable William Gomolinski, Judge Presiding.



In a negligence and wrongful death action against the security service at a mental health facility where plaintiff's decedent worked as a part-time receptionist, the trial court properly entered summary judgment for the security service, notwithstanding plaintiff's contention that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the security service had a duty to protect plaintiff's decedent when a patient entered the facility with an unmarked can of gasoline and a lit cigarette, doused decedent with the gasoline and set her on fire, since, based on viewing the stop motion snapshots of the patient on the security cameras they used, it was unlikely the security officers would have been suspicious and the post orders detailing the security officers' specific duties were formulated by the owners and operators of the facility, not the security service, and those orders were not included in the record; therefore, the appellate court would presume that the trial court's order had a sufficient legal and factual basis and that the security officers complied with their orders and performed their duties with reasonable care.

Corboy & Demetrio, P.C., Chicago, IL, (Michael K. Demetrio, of counsel), for APPELLANT.

Rutkowski Law Group, P.C., Chicago, IL, (Anthony R. Rutkowski, of counsel), for APPELLEE.

JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Delort and Justice Cunningham concurred in the judgment and opinion.


Page 1260


[¶1] Plaintiff, Leslie Blankenship as executrix of the estate of the deceased, Ellen Polivka, appeals from the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of defendant, Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. (Securitas), on plaintiff's negligence and wrongful death claim. On appeal, plaintiff contends the court erred in granting summary judgment where a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Securitas undertook a duty to provide Ms. Polivka with security at the time and place she was attacked. For the following reasons, we affirm.

Page 1261


[¶3] The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Securitas on December 7, 2012. Plaintiff filed the notice of appeal on December 18, 2012. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rules 301 and 303 governing appeals from final judgments entered below. Ill. S.Ct. R. 301 (eff. Feb. 1, 1994); R. 303 (eff. May 30, 2008).


[¶5] The decedent, Ms. Polivka, worked as a part-time receptionist for Centegra Health System (Centegra), which owns and operates a mental health facility at 527 South Street in Woodstock, Illinois. Centegra's director of safety and security, William Riggs, was responsible for creating a security plan for its facilities. At the South Street facility, the security plan called for two uniformed, unarmed security officers working eight-hour shifts. When not patrolling the premises, the officers were stationed in a specially designated security room located on the second floor. This room was not within view of the public and contained camera-monitoring equipment installed by outside contractors at Centegra's direction. The cameras provided still snapshots rather than continuous video. The security officers' duties included monitoring the cameras, conducting random patrols of the facility, creating identification badges, and responding to calls for assistance by employees providing treatment to patients in the facility. Decisions regarding the number of security officers per shift, the precise patrol route and locations officers must follow, the formulation of post orders that outlined the officers' duties, the training required for security officers, and the type of uniforms worn were made by Centegra administrators.

[¶6] In his deposition, Mr. Riggs stated that Centegra required security officers to wear " hard style" or police-style uniforms. Centegra chose this type of uniform because of the impact it would have on " violent and combative patients," who " respond better to authority when it looks like authority in the form of police." However, Centegra did not want the security officers stationed in main areas such as the main lobby. It did not want people coming into its facilities " to get the impression they were walking into a dangerous area or a police station." Therefore, the security officers were stationed in a room on the second floor, away from public view.

[¶7] On July 1, 2004, Centegra executed a contract with Securitas to provide security services at its facilities pursuant to its security plan. The contract states that Securitas agrees to provide " uniformed security guard services to Centegra at the Facilities in substantial conformance with the duties, instructions, procedures, policies, and other provisions contained in the then current Centegra Policies and Procedures Manual, incorporated herein by this reference." It also states that Securitas " does not and will not under the terms hereof, or otherwise, provide or furnish any service that directly or indirectly requires armed ...

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