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How the 7-Eleven Storefront Crash Settlement Highlights the Importance of Retail Safety

Taking precautions like installing safety bollards and protective barriers can not only help prevent hostile attacks, but also guard against commonplace accidents.

On Feb. 6, a Chicago-area man received a record-breaking $91 million settlement from 7-Eleven after losing both his legs in an accidental crash outside one of the company’s stores in Bensenville, Illinois, in 2017. Discovery in this case – in which a driver attempting to park stepped on the gas instead of the brake, leaving the plaintiff pinned between the store building and the car and in need of a double amputation – revealed that these types of incidents occur with troubling frequency – with 6,253 cars crashing into U.S. 7-Eleven storefronts over a 15-year period, an average of at least once a day.

This case – and the alarming prevalence of incidents like it – showcases the importance of taking security measures like installing safety bollards and protective barriers outside of storefronts. Rob Reiter, principal at Reiter and Reiter Consulting, co-founder of the Storefront Safety Council and chair of SIA’s Perimeter Security Subcommittee, served as an expert on the case and emphasizes that “if you install bollards, you pretty much solve that problem.”

“Large dollar settlements are reflective of large safety problems. A settlement this large reflects the facts – that this one retailer experienced over 8,000 storefront crashes over approximately 20 years, with over 800 stores struck three times or more,” said Reiter. “Over a hundred stores were hit more than five times – including one store that was struck 11 times! This many crashes results in a large number of deaths and injuries. Our Storefront Safety Council data shows that approximately 45% of storefront crashes result in at least one injury, and as many as 8% result in at least one death, so the human toll of allowing 8,000 crashes without taking any corrective action has been huge. We estimated (and the retailer did not refute) that thousands of customers and employees were injured, and hundreds have been killed. This is why the liability portion of the settlement was so high – this retailer was willfully negligent in allowing these sorts of accidents to occur and keep occurring and suppressed the data using tactics which the court found to be a violation of conduct. This negligence put the public and employees at risk, even though simple methods to prevent such accidents were known to them, available to them and both effective and affordable.”

“In the end, one person lost both of his legs because a multi-billion-dollar retailer failed to spend about $800 to protect him,” Reiter continued, “and the retailer pays $91 million and still needs to spend millions to install bollards or other safety devices at thousands of stores around the country.”

Not only can taking these types of security and safety measures help prevent hostile attacks, but it can also be beneficial for protecting against commonplace incidents like storefront car accidents.

“The installation of crash-tested and certified safety barriers and bollards in front of storefronts serves multiple purposes. It protects the building and patrons from an incidental pedal error impact providing a safety factor. Pedal error causes the majority of impacts we tend to see at storefronts; however, the physical presence of crash-tested and certified products also provides security mitigation against the use of a vehicle as a weapon or damage to the storefront for anti-theft purposes,” said Joseph Hauss, president of Gibraltar Perimeter Security, LP, a SIA member company that manufactures perimeter security solutions. “Being proactive as a business or property owner can save thousands or in the case here, millions of dollars by purchasing and installing crash-tested and certified bollards and barriers.”

“SIA has been very supportive of the work of the Storefront Safety Council over the years, and there are a number of working groups under the Perimeter Security Subcommittee that are writing standards and guidelines for risk and site assessments and protective devices that directly address this problem,” said Reiter. “The future is safer because of these efforts and because of this settlement.”

The SIA Perimeter Security Subcommittee guides SIA’s support for nationwide and international efforts to prevent hostile vehicle attacks. From crowded public spaces or critical infrastructure sites to government facilities, the subcommittee works to identify best practices, assess current threats and solutions and provide stakeholders with the latest on safety and security standards from governments and industry. Learn more and get involved here.

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