Security Guard Liability in New York

Private guards serve a necessary function by assisting law enforcement, ensuring individual safety and protecting business interests. Due to the nature of the profession, security guards and their employers are particularly vulnerable to potential civil liability for intentional torts, negligence, and civil rights violations. This article analyzes the application and extent of security guard liability in New York.

Intentional Torts

Property owners may “use reasonable force to eject a trespasser from its premises,” but evidence of unnecessary force or intent to injure removes the privilege. Mitchell v.

New York Univ., 2014 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 105, at *17 (Sup.

Ct. N.Y. Cty.

Jan.

8, 2014). Assault and battery claims brought against private security guards will typically turn on the intent and reasonableness of the guard’s actions. For example, in Oakley v.

Dolan, 980 F.3d 279 (2d Cir.

2020), the plaintiff brought assault and battery claims after he was roughly pushed to the ground, restrained, then removed from Madison Square Garden by security despite a lack of physical threat or provocation.

Plaintiff alleged he had done nothing wrong and had even raised his arms in a defensive and non-violent gesture.

The court reinstated plaintiff’s assault and battery claims as the facts permitted a reasonable inference that the plaintiff was subjected to unreasonable force.

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