Is a Franchisor Liable for Sexual Assault on An Employee Whom It Is Optional to Imlpement the Reccomended Security Measures ?

In Chelkova v. Southland Corp., 331 Ill. App. 3d 716, 771 N.E.2d 1100, 265 Ill. Dec. 141 (2002), the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the basis that it owed no duty to the plaintiff. The plaintiff, an employee at a convenience store owned and operated by one of the defendant's franchisees, was sexually assaulted while working alone at the store during a late-night shift. The record established that the defendant offered the services of field consultants to address security matters, prepared a robbery prevention kit, provided training to franchisees concerning rape and robbery prevention, and paid for a security system provided by an outside vendor. However, the record established that franchisees were not required to follow the defendant's recommendations and that the security system paid for by the defendant was optional. The Chelkova court distinguished Decker on the basis that the defendant in that case "took affirmative action to ensure compliance with its security standards," whereas the defendant in Chelkova permitted the franchisee to run the business as it saw fit. Chelkova, 331 Ill. App. 3d at 724. The Chelkova court found Martin to be distinguishable for similar reasons, noting that "McDonald's clearly undertook to implement and enforce security measures at the store in question." Chelkova, 331 Ill. App. 3d at 725.