Pizza Hut seems poised to fire the delivery driver who defended himself against an armed robber using the handgun he was legally permitted to carry. A Pizza Hut spokesperson stated that company policy forbade employees from being armed.
Most companies have such policies, and I think the reason for such policies easy to discern: An employee or customer murdered by a criminal costs the company far less than a lawsuit caused by an employee defending himself.
In the above case, it is not outrageous to see how a lawsuit could arise. Criminals have successfully sued their victims for damages they suffered while committing crimes against those victims. If Pizza Hut had allowed their drivers to go about armed, the wounded criminal might easily find an attorney willing to argue that Pizza Hut’s policy caused the incident and that the criminal deserves millions of dollars from the company’s fat assets.
Companies would also be liable for accidents that might arise from employees carrying guns or otherwise protecting themselves. If enough people carry guns, accidents will happen and politically motivated courts and juries might heap huge punitive damages. Certainly, security companies who employee armed guards must carry enormous liability policies which are usually their major cost after salaries.
On the other hand, lawsuits rarely result if an employee or customer gets murdered because society places the blame on the criminal and rarely asked what steps the company might have taken to prevent the deaths. At worst, a company just has to pay a little more each year for employee life insurance.
Only by holding companies responsible for their role in employee deaths can we hope to change the prevailing standard. People should sue when they or their loved ones fall victim to a crime which company policy aggravated. For example, businesses who do not allow those with concealed carry permits to carry on premises but do not provide armed security should be held liable from the harm caused by a criminal who attacked the business, on the theory that the business created a desirable environment for criminal activity.
It might seem unfair to put businesses in a sued-if-you-do, sued-if-you-don’t dilemma but businesses respond to economic incentives. We design our commercial law on that basis. Corporate officers must by law take those actions least likely to cost the business money.
As long as we make it cheaper for companies to let employees and customers die at the hands of criminals they will keep doing so.