Case details

Security satisfied the ‘observe and report’ requirements: defense





Result type

Not present

back, fracture, head, hemiarthroplasty, hip, pain, right hip
On Feb. 27, 2013 plaintiff Robert Simpson, a retired 74 year old, was walking across the parking lot for the Emergency Department of Antelope Valley Hospital, in Lancaster, when he was struck by a pickup truck that was backing up. Simpson sustained a fracture of the right hip. Several witnesses gathered at the scene, including the female driver of the pickup truck. After approximately two minutes, Peter Lepo, a security guard who was patrolling the parking lot in his vehicle, observed Simpson lying on the ground with several bystanders around him. As a result, Lepo parked his security vehicle, activated his lights and approached Simpson. At around the same time, a nurse with a wheelchair approached Simpson. Lepo asked Simpson if his back or head hurt, and Simpson responded in the negative. Simpson was then assisted into the wheelchair and taken to the Emergency Department for further evaluation and treatment. The lead security officer, Armand Scheiffele, arrived on scene after Simpson had already been taken to the Emergency Department. After briefly speaking with Lepo, Scheiffele went to the Emergency Department to speak with Simpson with the intent to take a slip and fall report, but he encountered an associate of Simpson’s in the reception area who spontaneously stated that Simpson had been struck by a car. This was the first time that anyone at Antelope Valley Hospital was made aware that a vehicle was involved in the incident. By the time security was aware a vehicle was involved, the driver of the pickup truck had already left the premises. Simpson sued Antelope Valley Hospital, Lepo and Scheiffele. Simpson alleged that Lepo and Scheiffele negligently failed to obtain the identifying information of the truck driver who hit him and that as a result of their negligence, he lost out on his ability to be compensated for his damages from the driver. He also alleged that Antelope Valley Hospital was liable for the security guards’ actions. Lepo and Scheiffele were dismissed on the first day of trial, and the matter proceeded against Antelope Valley Hospital only. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the defendants were negligent in failing to conduct an investigation and for wrongfully assuming that Simpson had tripped and fallen. Counsel also argued that once the security officers arrived, Simpson and the other witnesses relied on the security guards to obtain the pertinent information regarding the driver of the truck, as Simpson was incapacitated by his and could not ask questions himself. The plaintiff’s security/premises liability expert cited the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, the licensing entity for security guards, and the “Power to Arrest” manual, which is the written material that Lepo and Scheiffele were tested on in order to get their security guard cards. The expert testified that the primary responsibility of security guards is to “observe and report,” and noted that the manual contains information on investigation and report writing, including what information should be obtained for a report. The expert opined that it was negligent for Lepo not to have asked anyone at the scene how Simpson ended up on the ground. The expert also noted that Lepo was on scene for several minutes with the driver of the vehicle and the vehicle itself within a few feet of him, yet Lepo did nothing to ascertain the “who, what, when and where.” In addition, the expert opined that had Lepo asked the appropriate questions, he would have obtained the identifying information about the driver who struck Simpson. The defense’s security/premises liability expert opined that it was not negligent for Lepo to have not obtained information from the driver who struck Simpson. The expert testified that Lepo was on a routine patrol of the hospital property when he came upon the scene and that Lepo was not given any information about how the incident happened. The expert also testified that there was no duty or requirement to ask a prescribed set of questions, or act in a prescribed manner. The expert further opined that Lepo satisfied the requirements of “observe and report,” in that Lepo observed a man down in the parking lot and blocked the road with his vehicle so no cars would hit Simpson. Thus, the defense expert opined that Lepo essentially protected Simpson, while Simpson was on the ground, and then helped facilitate Simpson’s quick transport to the emergency room for care and treatment. Defense counsel contended that one of the female bystanders at the scene was in fact Simpson’s daughter, who had come to the hospital that day with Simpson in his vehicle, and that none of the five bystanders, including Simpson and his daughter, ever notified Lepo that Simpson had been struck by a vehicle., Simpson fractured his right hip, requiring a hemiarthroplasty that same day, on Feb. 27, 2013, at 12:30 p.m. Simpson claimed that he suffers from ongoing pain in his right hip, which limits his movement and activities of daily living. He also claimed that as a result of the injury, he developed lower back pain, requiring treatment with a pain management specialist. Thus, Simpson sought recovery of $750,000 in compensatory damages from Antelope Valley Hospital for all of his pain and suffering associated with the fractured hip that he would have pursued against the driver, had the identity of the driver been obtained at the scene of the accident. He also sought recovery of $92,000 in medical liability. The defense’s orthopedic surgery expert performed an independent medical exam on Simpson and opined that the surgery performed on Simpson’s right hip was successful and had no complications. The expert also disputed Simpson’s claim of future damages, opining that all of Simpson’s current complaints were related to a severe degenerative disc disease in his back and were not caused by anything related to the right hip.
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys, CA

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