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ADT settles wrongful death lawsuit

In 2006, a woman and her boyfriend were murdered in her home. The culprit was the woman's estranged boyfriend from Wisconsin, and she had reason to be frightened that he might hurt her. Aside from obtaining a court order prohibiting him from contacting her, she spent more than $2,000 to install an ADT security system in her home in order to protect herself and her family in case the Wisconsin man were to attack them.

The family of the deceased woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against ADT, the security system company. The family claimed that the security system was improperly installed, and furthermore, that ADT had misrepresented the alarm system's ability to prevent exactly this type of tragedy.

Unfortunately, the security system failed to operate when it was most needed. As a result, the Wisconsin man was able to cut the phone lines, shatter a glass patio door with a crowbar, walk up the stairs with a gun, and kill the woman and her boyfriend -- none of which triggered the alarm system. Finally, the alarm was triggered when two of the woman's children opened the front door to escape. But by then it was too late.

ADT argued that under its contract with the deceased woman, she had agreed that the maximum liability ADT was exposed to was $500. However, ADT agreed to settle the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. While no amount of money can replace the loss of their loved one, the family is satisfied that the amount of the settlement is sufficient to help care for the four children this woman was forced to leave behind for the rest of their lives.

This wrongful death settlement is significant because it could be seen to set an informal precedent that an alarm company cannot simply set an advance, carte-blanche limit on its liability for harm caused by its negligence or defective systems.

ADT specifically did not admit any responsibility for the untimely deaths of these two people, and confidential settlements cannot be used as precedent in other cases. Nevertheless, by settling the case it appears that they do recognize that their negligence in improperly installing the alarm system, a defect in the product, or another error is the likely cause of these tragic deaths.

Source: The Minneapolis Star Tribune, "ADT settles with family of woman slain in bed," Kevin Giles, Oct. 2, 2011

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