Negligence? Woman Gets Stuck In Automatic Gate

Since we have discussed Plaintiffs’ conduct in class, I thought this video would offer a useful point of analysis. Is this negligence by the security guard?

In the video, the guard hits the close button on the gate but then walks away before it is completely closed. One could argue that it is negligence not to wait for the door to be fully closed. However, it is an overt danger that the woman has completely ignored. Thus, even if there were negligence, there would be a strong argument of contributory negligence. It is actually sort of a challenge to get caught in a slow-moving automatic door.

Obviously, in a contributory negligence jurisdiction where even one percent of contributory negligence bars recovery, she would be barred. There is always the chance that she could claims to be an “inattentive plaintiff” under the last clear chance doctrine, but this requires that the defendant knew she was inattentive.

Now, assuming that we are in a comparative negligence jurisdiction (which includes virtually all states), is the woman more than fifty percent at fault? In a modified comparative negligence state, that would bar her from any recovery.

What percentage of responsibility would you place on the woman? In a pure comparative negligence jurisdiction, her award (if granted) would be reduced by her fault.

33 thoughts on “Negligence? Woman Gets Stuck In Automatic Gate”

  1. following tomdarch,
    one minimal design check to any door like this would be – might this hurt a child? Clearly there is a risk that does not seem to be addressed.

  2. The question presented is whether the security guard was negligent. Yes he was. He knew or should have known that his failure to monitor the closing gate could present a danger. Of course the woman is contributorily negligent.

  3. “In the end, I’d say that the woman who got herself caught by the gate was 70% to 99% at fault.” (tomdarch) … and the rest of what he said

    But … I am not a lawyer so I can only answer this dilemma as a potential juror. Her quick look to the left at the gate as she was raising the bag tells me she knew it was closing and since she didn’t put her left hand up to activate a sensor, knew there was none and simply misjudged the amount of time it took her to put the bad down. Since she didn’t check again by looking to the left but went straight for the opening … the fault is hers. Rather like turning into traffic and misjudging the speed of the oncoming vehicle … you think you have enough time … you don’t.

  4. “security” guard: I suspect that this guy is posted here not to protect people/cars passing through the gate, but rather to monitor that the “wrong” people don’t get in. I doubt that he is stationed there to monitor the safety of the gate mechanism. The guard’s fault probably wasn’t that he wasn’t protecting pedestrians, but that he left the gate unattended where someone could have snuk in.

    use of the gate as a pedestrian egress: This gate/ramp probably isn’t an “official” egress for people in the building/structure on foot. There’s probably a door/stair somewhere around, and this person was slipping through the gate was out of convenience. It’s interesting that the 2nd woman (in the blue lab coat) knew exactly where the gate control was located in the guard. I suspect that many people in that building use this gate to exit – thus the woman who got stuck felt familiar with the gate and was willing to cut it close, and the 2nd woman knew exactly where the control was located and how to activate it.

    Gate safety systems: It’s odd that this gate doesn’t seem to have an “electric eye” that seemed to be triggered when the woman put herself in the path of the gate. It’s also interesting that the gate mechanism didn’t have a sensor that picks up when the gate has hit something and either stops or reverses. Both of these are likely to be required in the US. I suspect (see below) that this is not in the US. I also suspect that this system may have been designed to maximize security at the expense of safety. In many vehicle control gate systems, the electric eye is there more to prevent the gate from hitting passing cars than it is to prevent morons from getting themselves squished.

    Where did this event occur?: The yellow fire extinguisher is a big clue that it isn’t in the US. That style of side-sliding gate is not common in the US, (but I can’t think of any technical reason why.) It wouldn’t surprise me if there were no or different codes/safety standards wherever this took place at the time the gate was designed/installed. (I probably shouldn’t put my fellow architects/engineers/designers into the line of fire, but when you’re looking for someone to sue in this case, in addition to the building owner, the security guard and the gate manufacturer, someone designed this installation, someone did the installation and probably someone maintains the equipment… Plus, there may be a Building Department or equivalent who periodically should be inspecting this equipment.)

    On my first viewing of the video, I thought that she was trying to hold the gate for someone following her, assuming that it would stop when she blocked it with her body. Watching it again, I really don’t know what they hell she was trying to do. She seemed to have enough time initially to pop through, and at some point it looked like she should realize that she had hit the “no go” decision point, but decided to wedge her torso sideways across the opening.

    In the end, I’d say that the woman who got herself caught by the gate was 70% to 99% at fault. Maybe the guard should have stuck around while the gate was not fully closed, but really he didn’t push this woman in front of the gate. Maybe the gate should have had more/better safety sensors, but no sensor is perfect so the woman who got stuck should have been more careful.

    Nowhere in the US would I design a gate system without more/better sensors and safety systems. Even in a 3rd world situation where there might not be a “building code” or similar in effect, I’d still try to incorporate a better safety setup. (One example would be a system where the guard/attendant would have to hold the close button down continuously while the gate was closing so that (s)he couldn’t just walk away like that.) Nonetheless, this woman took it upon herself to risk it squeezing through the gate. I hope she wasn’t seriously injured.

  5. lottakatz1, November 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    A security gate with a sensor so someone can stop it’s function with a hand-blocking motion? I have never presumed that; it kind of defeats the whole ‘security’ thing.
    Why not a security gate with a sensor so someone can stop its closing?
    Cars don’t stick thier fenders out expecting a gate to stop. That garage has a gate house….set up for a guard. I wonder if the gate opens without him present? Because without a guard present I think it is not an untoward expectation that a gate would not be ‘dangerous’.
    My friends Prius has a beep that goes off every time she back up.

    Elevators are set to re-open if they meet resistance.
    The automatic gates in Florida that I have ever driven through (and I only crashed through one….) all open quickly if they sense a car going through.

    Really though, how often is this clearly non-pedestrian exit used (and therefor encouraged to be used) by pedestrians? The guard just pushed a button and walked away…did he see the girl coming? He turned his head in that direction…

    Why shouldn’t the presumption in a hosital parking lot be that it is up to date with all available safety mechanisms?

  6. Oro Lee, you state you don’t need to know more, but you concede that the standard will be the expecations of a reasonable person “in that situation.”

    Thus, you need to know more about “that situation.”

    Don’t the totatlity of circumstances underlying the incident dictate the expectations of the reasonalbe person?

    Assume that just prior to the lady inserting herself in the gate’s pathway, the guard yelled “the gate will stop, just step in front of it!” This will not change what a reasonable person will believe in that situation?


    I agree with Felipe1561.

    Moving on… Looks like a hospital or med center. Maybe they can do a brain-ectomy and tubal ligation while patching her up. Certainly a candidate for the Darwin Awards.

    And in most situations, those types of gates of for vehicles and not pedestrians. Would like to see more tape to determine if it’s a standard practice for pedestrians to use that gate.

    For all you sue-happys out there, where’s this woman’s personal responsibility for her actions? Obviously a dumb-ass, and requires the nanny state to provide for her safety.

    Chances are if some other dumb-ass put you in the same litigational position, you’d be screaming bloody murder about the outrageousness of this potential dumb-ass claim. Maybe the guard was tending to another more serious situation which could have resulted in a suit against this entity. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  8. A security gate with a sensor so someone can stop it’s function with a hand-blocking motion? I have never presumed that; it kind of defeats the whole ‘security’ thing. That makes it important for people to have a functioning brain in their head before they’re let out of the house on their own.

    It also probably enhances the need for the folks operating the door to stick around. Even if there wasn’t an issue with someone getting stuck, there is that ‘security’ thing. Anybody moving a little faster could get in (to make mischief or felony crime) if the guard just hits the button and walks away. I’d be for sharing liability in some proportion but leave the manufacture of the gate out of it.

  9. most automatic doors/gates/windows have safetys on them. this gate is not automatic, the operator is should be at the controls until the gate fully closes. not hit the button and walk away.

  10. “need to know more about her expectations and the reasons therefor.”

    No, not really. The standard will be the expectations of a reasonable person in that situation.

  11. “How about a joint and several suit naming both the guard and the manufacturer? That way you can get the jury to award something.”

    Sue ’em all — if the manufacturer isn’t at the Defendant’s table, guess who gets blamed by the other Defendants? Same if you leave the guard out. Same if you leave the landlord out. Three Defendants may also mean three different insurance policies.

    The greater the hit against a company’s reserves, the more likely there will be no settlement. Divvy the settlement amount between three different insurance companies, the odds of settlement increase.

  12. I think she is at leat 50% at fault. As to how much higher, if any, than that, I agree with Nal and blhlls, and need to know more about her expectations and the reasons therefor.

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