Subscriber Discussion

Store's $250K Surveillance System To Prevent Lawsuits?

This grocery store in NJ put in a $350,000 system to guard against slip and fall lawsuits.

Says the owner: "We have almost every nook and cranny videotaped." He says the store has 69 cameras and "five or six" DVRs. His justification is that no cameras = lawsuits = raised prices. So the cameras will help keep prices low and give them extra money to put into beautifying the store. The store is featured as part of a campaign by and organization called Faces of Lawsuit Abuse.

My question: How often have you heard of lawsuit defense being a primary reason for a project?

Here's the full video:

Slip and fall lawsuits? They are a big deal. Even if they only happen a couple times per year, each incident can be thousands of dollars each. Over 5 years, that's tens of thousands. [NOTE: See comments below indicating that they can be 10x my estimates.]

That said, he spent $250,000+ on a 70 camera system? That seems like a lot of money. Cabling runs in a supermarket are short, most look like fixed cameras.

It would be interesting if he or anyone else had specific numbers on frequently of false lawsuits and an average dollar saved. Anyone?

When we design systems for our main restaurant customer, we make sure stairs and ramps are within camera views, specifically because of slip-and-fall liability concerns.

That said, we're not using $350,000(!!!) rigs specifically to watch for that... we just make sure that's ONE of the considerations.

Sounds to me like an integrator really wanted to pad his retirement fund...

While I would concur with the comments above regarding the price paid for their system (350K for a Geovision system w/69 cams seems like a world-class hosing), slip-and-falls are no joke... note that the dude in the video says that insurance costs for his ShopRite (that's what the store is, even though they scrubbed most of the branding out of that video) - is 2nd only to payroll.

A quick look for slip and fall lawsuits regarding just ShopRite stores (NE regional chain in the US) reveals these:

2012 - From that very same Passaic ShopRite

2011 - Shoprite sued for 'greater than 50K'

2011 - Suit dismissed against this Philly ShopRite

2010 - Woman wins 900k judgement against ShopRite, overturned on appeal, settled for undisclosed amount

2007 - Wants to sue ShopRite

2002 - Suit Dismissed - NY ShopRite

Many other ShopRite slip and fall lawsuits listed here

The National Floor Safety Institute estimates that the average cost to defend against a slip-and-fall lawsuit is $50,000 and the average judgment awarded in cases that go to trial is $100,000

In answer to Carlton's original question: one system in my years was mainly targeted at slip and fall lawsuit protection. There were a handful of others where it was named as a secondary concern, though. I can believe it would be a higher percentage in verticals like grocery stores, though, simply because there are more members of the public coming and going.

Also, that's good info, Marty. The math works for these foiks, I guess, though $350k is a little nutso!

I've heard people joke about it when they see wet floor signs, but I had no idea these slip and fall lawsuits were a common enough thing to spend this much money to prevent.

Spending money? Definitely. $250k for a supermarket? Sounds too high. Worth putting in a call to that store and see what you can learn.

I have a tweet here to share about this discussion:

Pivot3 (@Pivot3Inc) tweeted: “If we avoid 1 fraudulent claim of slip-and-fall, our surveillance system pays for itself,” said Evans, Spec’s Wine.

Wassim, thanks, that's interesting. One incident sounds a little bit low to pay for a system. I wonder how much they are presuming each incident costs?

Btw, this grocery/liquor store is recording video for 2 years and uses 4 pivot3 boxes (or more) per store (see case study).

We installed 70 IP cameras in a large supermarket with a mixture of 2-5MP cameras along with a full blown Intransa (RIP) head end (2 high powered servers, ISCSI storage), high end switches, racks, long runtime rack mount power supplies, surge protection, etc. Everything was RAID including OS drives with redundant power supplies etc.) No expense was spared. We could have cut costs dramatically by using COTS servers with the same result I'm sure.

The point is that the cost for this system was a fraction of $250K. That price doesn't sound a bit high, it sounds like they got completely RIPPED OFF! That's one quote that I would like to see.

I wonder if retail analytics were part of the original $250K, or even part of the $100K 'upgrade'?

You got to have slip n fall analytics! I wonder if BRS Labs could do that :)

In all seriousness, I've heard marketing claims about video analytics for slip n fall but is anyone seriously claiming to be able to detect slip n falls automatically?

Maybe a VideoIQ unit could be trained to do this? We have one installed here as part of our demo lab and it is pretty remarkable - for example it can (nearly flawlessly) identify one of our guys as compared with strangers walking through the field-of-view. Only downside we've seen is some give-up in video quality compared with e.g. Axis or Mobotix cams with equivalent resolution. Not sure if that's inherent.

Tom, I have never heard anyone (even from VideoIQ) make that claim. "it can (nearly flawlessly) identify one of our guys as compared with strangers walking through the field-of-view."

How does it know who is stranger vs who is one of your guys?

Difficult concept to fully understand, but cameras systems are cheaper than attorneys, and loosing lawsuits.

While in an Arecont training session last year, that was the concept with selling to large retail giants (walmart, costco, etc.)

I have been on both sides with managers and I agree with the sales side (cameras are always a better value). Some feel they are a waste of money so the only invest to the minimum needed, while others will look for the best. It really depends on the views, and attitudes of management. My view is cameras work.

[Editor's Note: Poster is from VideoIQ]

VideoIQ isn't targeting slip-n-fall style analytics.

Currently our primary focus analytics-wise is on object classification in a diverse set of environments. These means picking up all the people and vehicles in a scene, while ignoring dogs and foliage and shadows (to make a simplistic summary). We have made our biggest market in complex outdoor environments, and are now doing more in interior scenes (eg: for things like retail analytics).

Once an object is classified, we can determine if it is breaking one or more "rules", which I often describe as "macro-level behaviors", essentially the things that can be done with high repeatability. For example, a person entering a secure region, or travelling in a prohibited direction, or loitering near a store display. There isn't a lot of "grey" area here, and as long as you can pick out the people in the scene, you can do the rule/behavior analysis part reliably.

There is this whole other slew of behaviors that are closer (IMO) to micro-level behavior analysis. "Threatening or suspicious activity" "Slip and Fall" "Shoplifting team" and so forth. Yes, SOME of these things can be detected SOME of the time, but it becomes much harder to have a system that is both easy to install/maintain AND very trustworthy (an alarm is a real event, and the absence of alarms is truly the absence of events). From what I've seen of various products on the market, I have not come across anything that operates with high reliability and consistency over multiple environments such that I'd want to base MY business on it.