It’s Cheaper If They’re Dead

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.

14 thoughts on “It’s Cheaper If They’re Dead”

  1. Not just money. Sympathy for employee, sympathy for Pizza Hut, interviews with sad mothers – all on one side. That someone is not known far away in corporate hq. Sympathy for victim, attacked by big business in the person of the part-time, minimum wage employee, gotcha interviews with the employee implying a vigilante nature followed by accusatory press conferences corporate hq.

    We’ve gone from a period in which the establishment was seen as always right to one in which we see it as always wrong. The former encouraged inappropriate behavior by those who felt themselves righteous or at least covered; modern interpretations may lead to different but I’m not sure if fewer injustices. And for many businesspeople p.r. (especially in a service business or a fast food outlet, etc.) is more gold than gold.

  2. “Corporate officers must by law take those actions least likely to cost the business money.”

    This reminds me of a Leftist cartoon I once saw where a businessman is saying “I have a fiduciary duty to pollute as much as I can get away with.”

    That is pretty much true.

    Your assessment of the cost/risk/benefit thinking of any rationally self-intereested business seems true to me. It is cheaper overall to have an unarmed workforce, by mandate, and to accept the statistical inevitability that some higher proportion of them will be killed as a result, than to assume the huge and unknowable (and hence uninsurable) risk of an armed workforce where some smaller proportion of them are killed, but where they might shoot somebody else.

    Imagine an incident, and a lawsuit where the employee (some poor mope with no money, a pizza delivery man) and the employer (nice, big fat wallet) are both named as defendants. The employer’s lawyers have long advised them to have an absolute no guns policy. If the employer listened and took that seriously, the lawyers job may be very simple. He responds to the complaint with a motion for summary judgment with affidavits from the employer attached. In effect the lawyer argues in the motion as follows: “we have an absolute and no-exceptions policy: no employee may have a gun on his person or in his vehicle at any time while doing work for us. If this person had a gun, he was in violation this rule, which is in the employee handbook, which he read and signed. It is undisputable that this employee was acting outside the scope of his employment. Anything he did involving a gun cannot be imputed to my client, the empoloyer. Grant summary judgment on behalf of the employer.” That is simple and unambiguous and will probably work. Plaintiff would then have to come back and say something like “the employer knew they drivers had guns and did not really enforce this” or something like that, which is hard and expensive to prove. If you cannot get out on motion at the outset, you might renew the motion at the end of discovery, and be successful then. And with this policy well-established, you are pretty well positioned to settle the case for a small amount, since plaintiff will have a high hurdle to get over to get at the employer.

    There is no rational reason to do anything else.

  3. I’d be interested in knowing if that same Pizza Hut uses armed Brinks-type security guards to collect daily cash receipts for delivery and deposit in a bank, or does it require its unarmed employees to carry the cash to the bank. The former would indicate a lack of concern for the security of similarly situated delivery personnel; the latter could show a lack of concern for both, depending on the specific risk.

    The link in the original article quotes a state legislator who says he will be “watching Pizza Hut” to see how they handle the delivery driver’s employment status, adding

    “What I want everybody to know … is that there is people out there supporting this man and his right to defend himself,” Zaun said.

    Perhaps the legislator could also consider legislation that might reduce or eliminate the risk to employers who reasonably allow licensed employees to carry concealed weapons.

  4. Capitano,

    I’d be interested in knowing if that same Pizza Hut uses armed Brinks-type security guards to collect daily cash receipts for delivery and deposit in a bank, or does it require its unarmed employees to carry the cash to the bank.


    Pizza Hut actually offloads the liability cost of armed guards onto Brinks. Most security contracts stipulate that security company accepts liability for any consequences of the guards use/non-use of force. It’s cost effective to do it this way because the time frame for something to happen for anyone customer is very short so incorporating that cost into the security bill is supportable. If they allowed delivery drivers to carry guns they would have to insure against consequences resulting from hundreds of man hours per store.

  5. The likelihood that a thief would rob a pizza delivery guy seems rather small…My guess is that I would not feel very secure with Pizza Hut delivery guys going around armed. Get held up? Give them the 50 bucks and the pizza. Sure beats lawsuit. Besides, aren’t they insured?

  6. Given the choice between robbing a Pizza Hut driver, who the company certifies as unarmed, or a cop bar what is the likely choice? Why? Oh, right, cops have guns.

    Florida had an interesting experience after concealed carry was adopted there. First, there was a spike in shootings until bad guys figured out that the drivers in Florida might be armed and would shoot at them. Second, there was a rise in attacks around the airports.

    What was that about? Well, survivors of step one went looking for drivers guaranteed to be unarmed. Peoople arriving in Florida by air were guaranteed to be unarmed or they wouldn’t have been on the plane; some security and safety thing.

    The quick response – quick because tourists arriving by air are important to the economy – was to have police patrols in unmarked cars. The bad guys again had that uncertainty about possibly attacking someone who would shoot back.

    Pizza Hut could have a very public policy of a designated armed driver on each shift. This would focus the attention of robbers on the risks. as it is, Pizza Hut’s very public policy of unarmed victim drivers just alerts robbers to the possibilities of free money and a free pizza.

    Fred Lapides, There was so much wrong with what you said.

  7. Fred is missing the whole point. “Get held up? Give them the fifty bucks and the pizza.” At which point the perp says: “A lousy fifty bucks! I can’t get smack for fifty bucks!” then shots the guy in the groin or maybe between the eyes. Todays street criminal is not as predictable as Fred thinks.

  8. Fred Lapides,

    My guess is that I would not feel very secure with Pizza Hut delivery guys going around armed.

    I find comments of this form i.e. “I wouldn’t feel safe with ‘X’ armed” with X being any law-abiding citizen under discussion at the time.

    What does this say about the way in which you view your fellow citizens? Why does the idea that someone with a proven history of good decision making (which all concealed carry licensees must have) being allowed to carry a weapon unnerve you so?

    If you think about it, I believe you will find that systematic distrust of the decision making capabilities of ordinary underlies most of your political reasoning.

  9. Fred: Here.

    We were living in Memphis then and I remember the signs all over town, “Who killed the pizza guy?”.

    When his killer was caught and convicted it was “John, now you can finally RIP. From your boyz.”

    But you know, it doesn’t happen very often. Yeah.

  10. My guess is that I would not feel very secure with Pizza Hut delivery guys going around armed.

    Well, unless you are a hermit or live in a ‘gun free’ zone where only criminals are armed, you’re probably unaware of the many licensed handgun carriers you come in contact with every day. It’s called concealed carry for a reason.

    Shannon —

    If they allowed delivery drivers to carry guns they would have to insure against consequences resulting from hundreds of man hours per store.

    I agree and they could save the cost of the Brinks Security altogether by eliminating it in favor of having the manager drive the deposit to the bank. The fact that they choose to spend the money anyway shows they value their managers’ safety (or their cash receipts) more than their delivery drivers. In fact, Pizza Hut’s greatest exposure is the risk of auto accident liability, especially when the drivers are under pressure to deliver quickly. So the solution is to screen the drivers properly — good drivers and law-abiding citizens.

  11. Joshua,

    Yes, the idea that we all have the obligation to let ourselves be robbed, raped and murdered just to serve the supposed greater good is a pernicious one on the left. I think it arises from their innate elitist viewpoint that views the “masses” as mere expendable units to be sacrificed as needed.

    It’s the pacifist version of cannon fodder.

  12. When I worked for pizza hut the drop to the bank was done by unarmed managers not Brinks. Most of them are done that way. Two managers go to the bank together at random times to make deposits. Pizza Hut and most other pizza companies are franchised so they can’t afford to have the money picked up. They leave the employees of each franchise to take risk.

    In the employee handbook they actually instruct you to cooperate in every way even after they kill someone in the course of the robbery. The employee will be immediately fired if they hit back when being assaulted. It is almost as bad as being a late night clerk at a gas station. Shannon is right. The companies do want the headline “Pizza Hut Employee kills” so employees are left unarmed. That’s the sad truth. That is also the reason why you have to be over eighteen to deliver pizzas. They don’t want a sixteen year old getting robbed and murdered.

  13. So in the most byzantine manner possible, the way to hammer Pizza Hut is by their demonstrated behavior to prosecute them for occupational health and safety violations, knowingly placing employees in unwarranted danger. [If the left can use polar bears to backdoor Kyoto, why can’t the rest of us use occupational health and safety laws to backdoor self defense?]

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