The New York Personal Injury Blog

Pizza Delivery Rapist, Pizzeria, Condo, Doorman, Sued for Attack

Late last month, 16-year-old Caesar Lucas was arrested after he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman while making a pizza delivery. According to news reports, he checked for an unlocked door after making the delivery and came across the victim, who was sleeping next to her 7-year-old daughter. She awoke with Lucas assaulting her. He apologized, grabbed her iPhone, and took off.

We were amazed that Lucas was still employed by Sal’s Pizzeria. Back in August, he was arrested after stealing a wallet out of an unlocked apartment while on a delivery. Most employers would have fired him immediately, or reassigned him pending the outcome of the criminal case. It turns out, however, that he is the son of the owner, according to the New York Daily News.

At the time, a lawsuit against Lucas and the Pizzeria seemed obvious. It still does. Employers are liable for the acts of their employees while they are in the scope of employment. Had he put away the pizza gear and walked away on a "diversion" and then sexually assaulted someone, there might be a question. However, his actions occurred while on the delivery run. His employer (and parent) should be vicariously liable.

What is a little less obvious, at least at first, is why the condo management and doorman are being sued. The doorman, Luis Rodriguez, let the pizza guy past him. However, what is the alternative? Accompany him and leave the front door unguarded? The complaint states that he failed to take notice when Lucas was in the building for nearly a half-hour.

Though Rodriguez probably doesn't have enough assets personally to make a lawsuit worthwhile, the real reason for including him is probably, once again, vicarious liability. Much like the negligent pizzeria owner, the condo association can be held liable for the alleged negligence of its employee.

According to the Daily News, the management company also recently eliminated the night porter, whose job it was to accompany deliveries to the individual units. However, that alone might not suffice to show negligent security.

The standard of care is either what was agreed to in the contract with the management company or failing any express guarantees, the security measures the reasonable condo management company would employ. So, if the condo agreement states that a night porter, doorman, and security cameras will be in place, that is the standard. If they are silent on the issue, the parties will have to make arguments about what measures are reasonable based on comparable buildings' security.

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