Johannesburg - A security company has been found liable for the negligence of a guard who opened the gate of a Joburg home to armed men who pulled off an R11 million heist.
The Constitutional Court handed down its unanimous judgment on Thursday and said this matter had wider consequences for public safety and the role of private security.
Joburg homeowner Licinio Loureiro has been battling his former security company, iMvula Quality Protection, in various courts for several years over the negligence of one its employees stationed at his house.
The dispute dates back to January 2009, when armed men gained access to Loureiro’s property after the security guard had opened a pedestrian gate strictly to be used for guard shift changes, as stated in the contract between the parties.
His legal teams have argued the guard was supposed to deny any visitor access to his Melrose property unless there was express prior permission from Loureiro.
The men were dressed as police officers, arrived in a BMW fitted with blue lights on the dashboard, flashed a bogus police badge and pulled a gun on grade A qualified guard July Mahlangu.
When he opened the gate, the robbers made their way towards the house, where they stole good valued at R11m and tied up the family as they returned home.
After the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found iMvula was not liable for damages last year, Loureiro approached the Concourt last November. “iMvula is vicariously liable in delict because its employee acted wrongfully by opening a gate to robbers and negligently by failing to foresee the reasonable possibility of harm and to take the steps a reasonable person in his position would have taken to guard against it,” the Concourt judgment said.
It said the damages would be determined in another case at the Johannesburg High Court.
The judgment, written by Justice Johann van der Westhuizen, said the issue had wider repercussions for public safety.
“If they (security companies) are too easily insulated from claims for these harms because of mistakes on their side, they would have little incentive to conduct themselves in a way that avoids causing harm,” he wrote.
In granting iMvula leave to appeal, Justice Van der Westhuizen said legal certainty on the issue would benefit the public at large.
In 2011, the Johannesburg High Court ruled in favour of Loureiro when he sued iMvula for damages, but the SCA overturned this last March.
The Concourt also ordered the company to pay all of Loureiro’s legal costs, including that of the high court and the SCA.