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Does Ca law recognize any general duty by ADT to properly monitor and respond to a customer’s alarm system
June 13, 2019


Does Ca law recognize any general duty by ADT or any alarm company to properly monitor and respond to a customer’s alarm system
            This is an important issue, and by no means a settled legal issue.  Keep in mind that other states, besides California, may treat the issue differently.  Also, different facts can change the outcome.  Certainly ADT had a contractual duty to properly monitor and respond, but that duty arose and was defined by the contract.  Without the contract there was no general duty owed and a claim of negligence or gross negligence could not be sustained.
            State Farm General Insurance Company sued ADT in Federal Court venued in California [so California law applied].  The facts are fairly common for lawsuits involving alarm companies.  ADT installed a burglar alarm system in a residence for the tenant-occupant.  The owner of the property was not the ADT subscriber.  A burglary occurred followed by a fire apparently set by the burglars. The alarm system activated but neither police nor the subscriber was called.  A neighbor eventually called 911 when the fire was visible State Farm insured the owner and paid $188,000 for repairs; it then sued under its subrogation rights.  
            State Farm’s strategy was to avoid the terms of the ADT contract, which contained a waiver of subrogation, exculpatory and other protective provisions.  The court noted that had State Farm claimed third party beneficiary status it would then step into the shoes of the subscriber and would be bound by the ADT contract terms.  Instead of claiming rights under the contract, State Farm claimed that ADT had a duty to the owner of the property to properly install, monitor and respond to alarm signals.
            ADT moved to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that State Farm had no standing to sue because it failed to show that ADT owed any duty to the owner of the property, State Farm’s insured.  ADT claimed, and the court agreed, that:
            “California law fails to recognize any general duty on behalf of a security company to properly monitor and respond to a customer’s alarm system.”
            The court noted:
            “The Court does note, however, that pertinent authority does appear to preclude claims for both negligence and gross negligence on grounds that no predicate duties are owed in this instance.  See, e.g.,  Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. v. Morse Signal Devices, ( alarm company not liable for negligence or gross negligence because any duty owed by an  alarm company is premised not upon any common- law duty of care but instead upon the company’s failure to provide agreed-upon  services in a  contractual relationship);  see also  Valenzuela v. ADT Sec. Sers., Inc.(“Plaintiffs have not pointed to, nor has this Court found, a single course in which a court held...that an  alarm company’s failure to notify the relevant parties of a received  burglar  alarm signal created a duty outside of the  contract and therefore constituted [ ] negligence.”).”
            You can [and should] read the entire case on our website under Alarm Law Issues / Leading Cases / California.  State Farm Gen Ins Co v ADT

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301