Can a Franchisor Be Held Liable for Injuries Sustained by a Worker During Store Robbery ?

Can a Franchisor be Held Liable for Injuries Sustained by a Worker During Robbery in a Franchisee's Store if Proper Security Procedures and Reccomendations Have Been Followed ? In Decker v. Domino's Pizza, Inc., 268 Ill. App. 3d 521, 644 N.E.2d 515, 205 Ill. Dec. 959 (1994), a worker at a store owned by one of the defendant's franchisees was seriously injured during a robbery. The court upheld the verdict under a voluntary-undertaking theory of liability because the defendant--the franchisor-- formed a committee to study security issues, adopted a cash management system involving the use of time-delay safes in franchisees' stores, produced literature regarding robbery prevention, employed a franchise consultant to ensure compliance with the franchisor's standards (including robbery prevention) and to make sure that management trainees were properly trained in safety and security, and maintained a security hotline. In contrast, in Castro v. Brown's Chicken & Pasta, Inc., 314 Ill. App. 3d 542, 732 N.E.2d 37, 247 Ill. Dec. 321 (2000), the court affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the defendant on negligence claims. Those claims were filed by the administrators of the estates of two of the victims in a mass murder that occurred at a restaurant in Palatine that was owned and operated by one of the defendant's franchisees. The Castro court noted that deposition testimony by the defendant's employees established that security measures were left to the discretion of individual franchisees; the defendant did not mandate that any security procedures be followed, did not supply franchisees with any written materials concerning security issues, and did not employ security personnel for its franchisees. Castro, 314 Ill. App. 3d at 550. Moreover, the record established that routine quality inspections conducted by the defendant were limited to matters of food safety and accident prevention; the inspections did not relate to crime prevention. Castro, 314 Ill. App. 3d at 550. The Castro court carefully distinguished Martin and Decker, noting that unlike the defendants in those cases, the defendant in Castro "did not implement mandatory security measures to be followed by the franchisee, it did not follow up to make sure that security recommendations were followed, it did not provide security for the Palatine restaurant or engage in routine security checks, and it did not set up a security hotline or a committee to review security measures." Castro, 314 Ill. App. 3d at 552.