Myles M. Mattenson
ATTORNEY AT LAW
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
Email: MMM@MattensonLaw.com
Web: http://www.MattensonLaw.com
An Employee Is Physically Assaulted In Your Coin Laundry.
Were You Or Your Landlord Negligent In Failing To Provide Security?

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.


An Employee Is Physically Assaulted In Your Coin Laundry.
Were You Or Your Landlord Negligent In Failing To Provide Security?

      An  attendant employed by you to assist customers and  keep
your  Coin  Laundry  clean is physically  assaulted  within  your
premises.  Is there an obligation to provide a security guard  at
the Coin Laundry to deter criminal misconduct?

      The California Supreme Court has provided some guidance  on
this subject.  On December 16, 1993, the California Supreme Court
issued  a  written opinion regarding an event which  occurred  on
June  17,  1985.  (It sometimes takes a bit of time to  obtain  a
review  of  a  trial  court decision by  the  California  Supreme
Court.)

      On June 17, 1985, a woman identified in the opinion as "Ann
M.",  was employed by a photo processing service located  in  the
Pacific  Plaza  Shopping  Center, a  strip  mall  in  San  Diego,
California.   The  shopping  center  was  generally  occupied  by
approximately 25 commercial tenants.  According to the opinion,

           "At approximately 8 a.m. on June 17, Ann M. opened the
     photo store for business.  She was the only employee with  a
     'drop  gate'  that was designed to prevent  customer  access
     behind the counter but it had been broken for some period of
     time.  Shortly after Ann M. opened the store, a man she  had
     never seen before walked in 'just like a customer'.  Ann  M.
     greeted the man, told him that she would assist him shortly,
     and  turned her back to the counter.  The man, who was armed
     with  a knife, went behind the counter, raped Ann M., robbed
     the store, and fled.  The rapist was not apprehended."

      Subsequently,  Ann M. filed a civil complaint  for  damages
alleging causes of action against the owner and operator  of  the
photo  processing service, the shopping center, and  the  company
employed  to  manage  the  shopping center.   She  also  filed  a
worker's  compensation claim against her employer for  which  she
was awarded benefits.  Worker's compensation was deemed to be her
exclusive remedy against her employer, and, as a result, the suit
against  the  owner and operator of the photo processing  service
was subsequently dismissed.

      The  lease  between  the  photo processing  store  and  the
shopping  center provided the owners of the shopping center  with
the  exclusive right to control the common areas.   Although  the
lease  gave  the shopping center the right to police  the  common
areas,  it  did  not  impose an obligation to either  police  the
common  areas  or  those  areas under the exclusive  control  and
management  of the tenants.  If the shopping center had  provided
walking patrols by security guards, the tenants would have  borne
the cost in the form of additional rent.  No security guards were
in fact hired by the shopping center.

      According  to  deposition  testimony,  tenants,  through  a
merchants'  association, had complained about a lack of  security
in  the  shopping  center and the presence  of  transients.   The
merchants' association took the step of hiring a security company
to drive by the area three or four times a day.

     Ann M. essentially argued that the shopping center's failure
to   provide  walking  security  patrols  in  the  common   areas
constituted 1negligence.

     The Supreme Court held that it would impose the duty to take
affirmative  action  to  control  criminal  misconduct  only   in
situations where such misconduct is foreseeable i.e., where  such
conduct  can  be  reasonably  anticipated.   The  Supreme   Court
determined  that  in the Ann M. case, "violent criminal  assaults
were  not sufficiently foreseeable to impose a duty upon  Pacific
Plaza to provide security guards in the common areas."  The Court
observed:

           "While there may be circumstances where the hiring  of
     security  guards will be required to satisfy  a  landowner's
     duty of care, such action will rarely, if ever, be found  to
     be a 'minimal burden.' The monetary costs of security guards
     is  not  insignificant.  Moreover, the obligation to provide
     patrols  adequate  to  deter criminal conduct  is  not  well
     defined.   'No  one  really knows why people  commit  crime,
     hence  no one really knows what is 'adequate' deterrence  in
     any  given situation' . . . . Finally, the social  costs  of
     imposing a duty on landowners to hire private police  forces
     are  also  not insignificant. . . .  For these  reasons,  we
     conclude that a high degree of foreseeability is required in
     order  to find that the scope of a landlord's duty  of  care
     includes the hiring of security guards.  We further conclude
     that the requisite degree of foreseeability rarely, if ever,
     can  be proven in the absence of prior similar incidents  of
     violent   crime  on  the  landowner's  premises.   To   hold
     otherwise would be to impose an unfair burden upon landlords
     and, in effect, would force landlords to become the insurers
     of  public  safety, contrary to well-established  policy  in
     this state." [Emphasis added]

      The Supreme Court, however, also noted that "it is possible
that  some other circumstances such as immediate proximity  to  a
substantially similar business establishment that has experienced
violent crime on its premises could provide the requisite  degree
of  foreseeability."  Ann M. did not present any  such  evidence,
however.   Since  Ann M. was unable to demonstrate  that  Pacific
Plaza  had knowledge of prior similar incidents occurring on  the
premises, the court concluded that the physical violence suffered
by  Ann M. was not sufficiently foreseeable to impose a duty upon
the  landlord to provide security guards in the common areas, and
upheld judgment for the defendant shopping center.

      How  do you believe the court would have ruled if a similar
incident  had occurred within six months at the photo  processing
store?  What if a similar incident had occurred 18 months earlier
in  the  adjacent store?  What if a similar incident had occurred
thirteen months prior in a store located at the other end of  the
strip mall?

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]


Reprinted from New Era Magazine
Myles M. Mattenson  1996-2002