Decided: April 3, 2015
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the ruling of the district court to grant SSA Security, Inc. summary judgment on the Homeowners’ negligence-based claims and under Md. Code Ann. § 19-501 (“Maryland Security Guards Act”) because the common law doctrine of respondeat superior does not expand to security companies.
The appellants (“Homeowners”) consist of 30 victims of one of the largest residential arsons in Maryland. The Homeowners alleged that one of SSA Security, Inc.’s security guards was responsible for the arson.
After affirming the grant of summary judgment on the Homeowners’ negligence-based claims, the Fourth Circuit certified to the Court of Appeals of Maryland the question of whether, based on the Maryland Security Guards Act, an employer may be responsible for off-duty criminal acts that an employee planned while he or she was on duty. The Court of Appeals of Maryland responded in the negative. Next, the Fourth Circuit analyzed the Maryland Security Guards Act using the canons of statutory interpretation and concluded that § 19-501 has the same meaning as Maryland’s common law doctrine of respondeat superior. Subsequently, the Homeowners did not challenge the district court’s analysis under the common law and conceded the issue. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of SSA Security, Inc.