Myles M. Mattenson
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
A Coin Laundry Customer Is Hurt By A Robber
Because You Stalled Responding To The Robber's Demands!
Are You Liable?

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.

A Coin Laundry Customer Is Hurt By A Robber
Because You Stalled Responding To The Robber's Demands!
Are You Liable?

      It is a pleasant, quiet mid-week morning.  There are only a
few  customers  in your coin laundry as you move about,  emptying
coin  boxes.   Suddenly, a robber appears and brandishes  a  gun.
You  watch with shock and dismay as a pregnant customer is  taken
hostage with the robber holding his gun to her back.

      The  robber,  with  his gun pointed at  the  back  of  your
customer, orders you to open the currency changer, and tells you,
borrowing  a  line from a current, popular movie,  "SHOW  ME  THE
MONEY!"  You attempt to stall the robber by telling him you  need
to  get  a  special key to open the changer.  The robber  becomes
agitated and tells you that he will shoot your customer if you do
not immediately open the currency changer.

      The  customer then screams at you to open the  changer  and
give the robber the money.  You finally, reluctantly, comply with
the robber's demands.

     The customer later sues you, alleging that since you did not
comply  promptly with the robber's demands, the delay caused  her
emotional  and physical injuries, hospital and medical  expenses,
loss of wages and a loss of earning capacity.  Are you liable?

      The  Supreme  Court of California recently considered  this
question in an appeal involving a customer who was assaulted at a
Redondo  Beach  restaurant  operated by  Kentucky  Fried  Chicken
("KFC").  The plaintiff, a woman, alleged that she was a customer
at  the  Redondo  Beach outlet when she was seized  and  held  at
gunpoint  by  an unidentified person who threatened to  seriously
injure her if employees of KFC did not give the robber the  money
in  the  cash  register.  She alleged that an  employee  did  not
promptly  comply with the robber's demands and that  such  delay,
and  other actions, caused further injury to her and resulted  in
additional threats of grave injury.

     The Complaint also alleged that KFC failed to provide proper
security, failed to properly train employees in how to respond to
criminal  activity  to  avoid  endangering  customers.   [On  the
subject  of  providing security, the reader is  referred  to  the
author's April, 1996 New Era article.]

     The decision reports that the woman was the only customer in
the  KFC restaurant when she was suddenly accosted by the robber,
who  put a gun to her back.  The customer promptly complied  with
the  robber's  demands and surrendered her cash and  wallet.   He
then  demanded that a clerk open the cash register and  give  him
all  of  the money.  The clerk did not promptly comply  with  the
robber's  demands.  The clerk, instead, told the robber that  she
would  have to go to the back of the restaurant for a  key.   The
decision further reports:

                     "The  robber then became extremely
          agitated,  shoved  his gun  harder  into  the
          woman's  back,  told the  employee  he  would
          shoot the woman if the employee did not 'quit
          playing  games'  and open the  cash  register
          immediately.  The woman, who believed she was
          going   to  die  because  of  the  employee's
          actions, then 'screamed' at the clerk to open
          the  drawer and give the money to the robber,
          at  which point the clerk complied and opened
          the  cash register drawer.  The robber seized
          the money and fled."

      The  woman later filed a negligence action in the  Torrance
branch  of the Los Angeles County Superior Court.  KFC felt  that
the  employee had no duty to the customer and filed a motion  for
summary  judgment.   The  trial court  denied  KFC's  motion  for
summary  judgment with the result that KFC filed a  petition  for
writ  of mandate in the Court of Appeal, seeking to overturn  the
trial  court's order.  The Court of Appeal, however, denied KFC's
petition,  holding that a shopkeeper owes a duty to a  patron  to
comply with an armed robber's demand for money in order to  avoid
increasing the risk of harm to patrons.

      The  Supreme  Court  of California, however,  reversed  the
judgment of the Court of Appeal, holding that there is no duty to
comply with a robber's unlawful demand, and the simple refusal to
obey  such  a  demand does not breach any duty to  third  persons
present  on  the  premises.   The Supreme  Court  concluded  that
recognition of such duty would be contrary to public policy as it
would encourage similar unlawful conduct.

      If  this conclusion of the California Supreme Court appears
questionable  to you, you are not alone.  The seven  justices  of
the  California  Supreme  Court were not  of  one  mind  on  this
question.   The Supreme Court was divided 4 to 3 in its decision.
The  Supreme  Court noted that the KFC employee did not  actively
resist  or  intentionally  engage in  provocative  conduct.   The
Supreme Court thus concluded:

                     "Because we are not faced  with  a
          situation  in  which active resistance  to  a
          robbery resulted in injury to a third person,
          our  holding  is narrow.  We hold  only  that
          there  is  no duty to comply with a  robber's
          unlawful   demand   for  the   surrender   of
          property.   Simple refusal to obey  does  not
          breach  any duty to third persons present  on
          the premises."

      In  one  of  the dissenting opinions of the  justices,  the
alternative argument is made that the issue is not whether  there
is a duty to comply with the robber's demand, but rather, whether
KFC's  employee  breached a standard of care to the  customer  by
unreasonably  refusing to comply with the  robber's   demand  for
money.  The dissent notes first that:

                 "the  majority  and I agree  that  the
          restaurant  had  a  duty to  take  reasonable
          steps to protect its patrons from foreseeable
          assault by third parties on the premises. . .
          .   Given  this duty, the question of whether
          the  restaurant breached this duty and failed
          to  use  due care when its cashier  initially
          refused  to comply with the robber's  demands
          is a question for the jury."

The dissent continues:

                     "As  the ultimate success  of  the
          robber in this case illustrates, however,  it
          is unlikely that in most cases a proprietor's
          refusal  to  cooperate will deny  the  robber
          what  he seeks.  It also seems unlikely  that
          the   majority's   decision   will   embolden
          business  proprietors or their  employees  to
          refuse  the demands of an armed robber  at  a
          greater  rate  than they would if  they  were
          under a duty to use reasonable care, for they
          too are in the robber's zone of danger."

      How  might you respond to such a robber if you were in  his
"zone of danger?"

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]

Reprinted from New Era Magazine
Myles M. Mattenson  1997-2002