Massachusetts; a $24 million wrongful
death claim against a hotel in Florida;
and a $6.6 million claim against a big box
retailer for the loss of a leg in a Maryland
incident. The Storefront Safety Council is
aware of more than $100 million dollars
in claims paid in 2015 and 2016 because
of vehicle-into-building crashes.
This trend is increasing as more cases
go to trial and plaintiffs find it easier to
show that a location was poorly protected
against a foreseeable and preventable risk.
Some auto insurers have also followed this
strategy against property and business
owners to reduce their payouts in six cases.
Related risks continue to rise
There was a rise in “crash & grab” ramraids in 2016, which continues a previously tracked trend. Last year, the two
biggest categories for these thefts were
ATM machines located in convenience
stores and chain pharmacies, and firearms at retail gun stores.
The high cost of repairing the structural
damage is almost always much higher than
the value of the theft. In the case of gun
thefts, however, the situation is magnified
by the likelihood that guns stolen from the
retailer will be used in the commission of
future crimes. Once traced back to the insured gun retailer, civil liability litigation is
likely to follow. Enforcement of an underwriting requirement to lock all weapons
away at night or installation of crash-tested
barriers would go a long way to cut down
on this particularly dangerous crime.
New risks: Terror by truck and
deliberate vehicle attacks
There were 86 killed by a truck in Nice,
France; one person killed on campus at
Ohio State; 12 killed and 56 injured in Berlin, Germany, and like it or not, the use of
vehicles to deliberately inflict harm on the
public is on the rise. While this is a Homeland Security issue, a city or large commercial property that fails to anticipate the
need to protect crowds against deliberate
attacks might also face litigation for the
lack of preparation and planning required.
In November, the ISIS terrorist organization suggested to followers overseas
that the use of vehicles to commit terror
was very effective and easy to organize.
The group suggested events like the Ma-cy’s Thanksgiving Parade as being one of
several particularly attractive targets.
In response, cities around the United
States (as well as all National Football
League stadiums and all Major League
Baseball parks) have already or are in the
process of beefing up protective barriers
around sites and especially areas where
crowds gather in proximity to city streets.
Santa Monica, California; Los Angeles,
California; Miami, Florida; Washington,
D.C.; and New York City, New York, have
all increased pedestrian and crowd security at certain sites.
Accidental vehicle incursions into
During parades, farmer’s markets, street
fairs and celebrations, streets get closed off,
the public turns out in droves, and it feels
like party time. But the reality is that one
drunk driver (or a medically- or psycho-
logically-impaired driver) can ruin a fun
family day. The example most people point
to occurred in 2003 at the Santa Monica
Farmer’s Market (which cost the city a re-
ported $21 million in claims), but these
sorts of accidents occur too frequently:
• South by Southwest in Austin, Texas
• Farmer’s Market in Hawthorne, New
• Maui Marathon, Hawaii (2014)
• Street festival in Queens, New York
•Oklahoma State Homecoming parade in Stillwell, Oklahoma (2015)
•Mardi Gras Parade, New Orleans,
A dozen deaths and almost 50 injuries between them – all occurring on city
streets during city-sanctioned events. In
the end, the risk is assumed by either the
promoters or the city because the public
has a presumption of personal safety when
attending an outdoor event sanctioned by
a municipality or group using city streets.
Despite clear guidelines on how to
properly secure areas and protect crowds,
and increasing liability judgements, cities
(and their insurers) have been very slow
to take prudent steps to protect the public.
“Sizeable crowds show up to weekly
summer music concerts, marathons, festivals, parades, etc., producing crowds
where several hundred to several thou-
Berlin, Germany Christmas Terror (Left) Nice, France Summer Terror (right.) Nearly 100 combined deaths and nearly 500 injuries.
Deliberate attacks by vehicles are on the rise around the world. (Photos: Emilio Esbardo; Remi Benali/Getty)