Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Michigan mall and security guards face wrongful death suit

Companies doing business in Michigan can be hit with litigation at any time, for any number of reasons. The owners of the Northland Center Mall in Southfield are facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a man from Ferndale who got into an altercation with security guards. They are also suing the company that employs the security guards, IPC International, and two of its guards.

The fatal incident, which has received widespread local attention, occurred in January when the Ferndale man, in his mid-20s, was detained outside a jewelry store at the shopping center. Reportedly, he had threatened to take peoples' lives.

According to the suit, the young man was pinned down, beaten, pepper sprayed and strangled by the guards. The family asserts that after this use of force rendered the young man unable to breathe, the guards failed to try to resuscitate him.

A witness's cellphone video of the incident has increased scrutiny of the case. On a portion of the tape shown on local Fox affiliate WJBK-TV, the man is seen being pinned down by several security guards. He can be heard saying that he can't breathe. According to the WJBK report, police say the man was acting suspiciously in the jewelry store the day before and was told by security guards to leave. They say he returned the following day and appeared intent on harming someone.

The young man's mother contends that her son was murdered, and the family asserts in the lawsuit that unnecessary force was used against him because he was African-American.

The case has prompted state lawmakers from the area to call for improvements to security guard training. Currently, Michigan does not require even armed security guards to be trained.

The police are still investigating the case, and the medical examiner's office has not yet completed its autopsy or determined the man's official cause of death. They say they are awaiting toxicology results.

Both the company that owns the shopping center and the employers of the security guards are headquartered in other states. However, they and their legal teams will likely need to handle this business litigation in Oakland County where the suit was filed. Companies that employ security guards sometimes tread a fine line of needing them to protect the safety of customers and employees while not causing unnecessary harm to people deemed to be a threat.

Source:  Detroit Free Press, "Lawsuit seeks $800 million over man's Northland Mall death" Eric D. Lawrence, Feb. 26, 2014

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