Video surveillance footage proves crucial to defeat all claims against security guards

Schumacher v. Antiquorum USA, Inc., NY Slip Op. (Sup.Ct. N.Y.Cty. 2016)

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Video surveillance footage ruled out the possibility of a triable issue of fact, and a Supreme Court Justice therefore dismissed all claims against two security guards upon motion for summary judgment.

Plaintiff claimed he was injured after the Board of Directors of the corporate defendant passed a resolution suspending the plaintiff from his employment as its Chief Operating Officer. In furtherance of this resolution, the corporation acted to deny plaintiff access to its offices by engaging a security company to staff the premises. The individual security guard defendants were stationed there with instructions, in the event plaintiff arrived at the offices, to encourage him to leave without incident and, if he refused, to call the police and wait for a response. While the individuals were not there for the purpose of "laying hands on" the plaintiff, they were instructed to "provide an appropriate response in the event that this discharged employee was to pose a danger to them or to others." Plaintiff arrived at the Office the same day as the resolution, took exception to the denial of his access, and attempted to enter regardless of the defendants' efforts. The confrontation escalated, which led to the defendants' calling the police. Eight officers responded and arrested the plaintiff. The encounter was captured on video surveillance footage. At some point in the course of these events, plaintiff allegedly suffered injuries. He then commenced an action against the corporation, its officer, the City of New York, as well as the individual security guards, against whom he asserted claims for assault, battery, false arrest/imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The video footage proved decisive. In a 13-page decision, Justice James E. D'Auguste referred again and again to it. He found that, "The 'proof of physical conduct' [necessary to support a claim for assault], if any existed, would be demonstrated in the video. However, it is clear from the video footage that [neither defendant] made any sort of gesture that would have given rise to imminent apprehension of harmful contact." Elements of battery were also absent, "given the fact that [defendants'] conduct was solely to thwart the plaintiff's repeated attempts to get through or bypass [them], by physically placing himself between or around them." There was no basis for the false arrest/imprisonment claim, as "there is no evidence to show that the defendants intended to confine plaintiff, nor that defendants did anything to make plaintiff believe that he could not leave the premises." Nor could plaintiff sustain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff's claims "boiled down to advising plaintiff he was not allowed to go into the Office, thwarting and subduing plaintiff's physical attacks, and calling the police because of his conduct."

Thus, the Court granted the security guards' motion for summary judgment dismissing all four of the plaintiff's claims against them.

AGF&J partner Barry Jacobs represented the defendant security guards and briefed and argued their motion for summary judgment.