Negligence and the Robber’s Explicit Demands

Just finished a draft of my manuscript. The right to defy criminal demands Article, so I decided to serialize it here. Since there is still time to make changes, I would love to get your feedback and suggestions. Here you can find previous posts and any new posts.

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Let’s go back to Situation 3: Craig comes into Danielle’s store demanding money. Danielle is frightened that he might injure others if Danielle does not comply. Do you think Danielle is legally liable for refusing to comply? She has an affirmative duty as a business visitor to her store, so it would seem that not giving in violates this duty.

Multiple courts have rejected this ruling, expressing their acceptance of a “no obligation” rule. Most prominent is Kentucky Fried Chicken of California, Inc.From the California Supreme Court

[A] shopkeeper does not have a duty to comply with the unlawful demand of an armed robber that property be surrendered…. Recognition of a duty to comply with an unlawful demand would be contrary to public policy as it would encourage similar unlawful conduct….

[T]A “reasonable prudent individual under the circumstances” standard is the overall standard for care. [for property owners’ duty to protect their visitors]…. [But]In certain situations, a judicial decision or statute may establish a specific standard.

The court referenced several other appellate precedents in states where such decisions were made. The court used pragmatic reasoning to justify its decision.

[T]he public interest would not be served by recognition of a duty to comply with a robber’s demands…. [W]We don’t believe that those who do armed robbery are unaware of or would encourage the existence such a responsibility. We don’t have any evidence to support the conclusion that compliance prevents victims from being robbed. Public safety is greatly improved if would be robbers know their victims are not legally obligated to comply with their demands. They also have no obligation to turn over their property for protection against third-person injury.

The other part was rights-based

We agree with KFC that no duty to comply with a robber’s unlawful demands should be imposed …. Both article I, section 1 of the California Constitution and Civil Code section 50 recognize the right of any person to defend property with reasonable force…. Recognizing a duty to comply with an unlawful demand to surrender property would be inconsistent with the public policy reflected in article I, section 1 of the California Constitution and Civil Code section 50…. Refusing to obey is not a breach of any duty to other persons on the premises.[1]

However, three of seven Justices dissented and refused to believe that “a business owner is”. Never required to subordinate any of his own property interests—no matter how insignificant the object and no matter how slightly it is jeopardized—to his customers’ safety—no matter how many they are and no matter how gravely they are threatened.” “‘In­alien­able rights'” to defend property, the dissenters reasoned, “are not ipso facto absolute rights.”

A single appellate case, however unusual in my knowledge, seems to back the view of the dissidents. In Massie v. Godfather’s PizzaTwo robbers stole a pizza shop and threatened an employee with rape if the manager did not give the money. The manager refused, so they raped the employee. The store was sued by the plaintiff, who won the right to proceed with the case. However, the court relied partly on the policy that the restaurant had of accepting robbers. [Godfather’s]own duty to public”, and didn’t confront more directly the arguments KFC Would make or that the cases later KFC The cited were previously made.[2]

For your safety, Kentucky Fried Chicken Two reasons have made this controversial. The majority’s dependence on property defense is troubling, given the fact that this case did not involve active resistance to a crime and the court explicitly declined to contemplate what might happen if it had. It was simply an assertion of a right to reject compliance. [3] And, second, to quote one criticism,

KFC held, not only that the store’s property rights outweighed the lives of those in the store, but also that the property interest in the small amount of money in the cash register—perhaps $150—outweighed the lives of even a large number of customers.[4]

However, I do not believe that the court meant to say that property can be valued above lives. Instead, the court was saying that in aggregate, the strength of the law will be used to support robbers’ demands, increasing robberies and jeopardizing more lives. Second, the fact that it mentioned the right to defend property suggests it wasn’t defending a property right as such. It was citing the right of dignity to deny “complying with an illegal demand”, even if it is only for property.

In this regard, KFC This fits with my understanding of the “no-duty” rationale. Hurn v. Greenway. The law should not restrict Greenway’s freedom by imposing a “refrain from bullying or teasing someone who is known to be violent.” It would also be illegal for KFC to limit employees liberty by making it clear that they will not provoke robbers to incite someone who is known to be violent.[Such liability is]Particularly troubling is where the “provocation”, as in this case, is an act or resistance.

Greenway wasn’t at her home. She was resisting Evans’ implicit demand to end showing affection to a friend. This was motivated jealousy. KFC employees were at their workplace and refused to give money to the robber. Maybe the $150 value in being able kiss your friend and dance with them is more than just that. However, at the bottom of it, I believe that the KFC worker’s decision to refuse was not about money. Instead, it was about refusing criminal demands. This refusal should be excused by the law in both instances.

[1]A different argument might be offered against liability. One could argue that KFC employees acted under extreme stress, so a judge/jury should not second guess them. Some states explicitly adopt this approach to emergency situations, often under the umbrella of the “sudden crisis” doctrine (also called the “imminent danger” doctrine).[A] person who … is suddenly and unexpectedly confronted with … imminent danger … is not expected nor required to use the same judgment and prudence that is required of him in the exercise of ordinary care in calmer and more deliberate moments.” Abdulkadhim v. Wu, 53 Cal. App. 5th 298, 301–02 (2020) (cleaned up). However, you can see Bedor v. Johnson, 2013 CO 4, ¶¶ 23–26 & n.2 (2013) (abolishing the doctrine, and citing other states that have done so). Perhaps “Detached reflection is not possible in the presence a raised knife,” to borrow from an alternative context of self-defense law. Brown v. United States 256 U.S. 335, 343 (1921). This was however not the court’s reason in KFCIt is possible to do so, and cases such as mine are a good example. McBrayer The abortion clinic nuisance case suggests that defiance should not be limited to immediate threats. It must also extend to circumstances where the defiance stems from reflection.

[2]Ask the judge if focusing only on the policies of the defendant is a good approach to duties questions, regardless of whether or not it would be appropriate in breach-of-duty and foreseeability.

[3]It was held by the court that “it need not decide whether that right is valid.” [to reasonably defend property]”Is qualified by the obligation to avoid injury of third persons, or if there is a duty to avoid physical resistance which might provoke a criminal into carrying out an attempt to harm third persons,” since the facts were pure refusal and not active resistance.

[4] Dilan A. Esper & Gregory C. Keating, Abusive use of “Duty”., 79 S. Cal. L. Rev. 265, 321–22 (2006).