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Question: How much does it cost a grocery store to install 69 cameras and six DVRs?

Answer: About $250,000.

Question: How much does it cost to maintain the store’s recording system?

Answer: About $100,000.

Rafael Cuellar, the owner of a grocery store in Passaic, NJ, estimates he has spent around $350,000 to install and maintain his store’s camera and recording devices. Doesn’t that seem like an awful lot of money to spend to repel or catch shop lifters?

Yes, it is. Which is why preventing shop lifting wasn’t the reason Mr. Cuellar invested in his security network in the first place. The cameras and recording devices are in place to monitor every inch of his store to protect Mr. Cuellar from frivolous lawsuits.

“Yesterday alone we had a consumer who came back in [the store] and claimed she fell,” Mr. Cuellar recounts in the video, Supermarket Swindle. “Once the loss-prevention director said, ‘Let’s pull it up on the camera,’ she goes, ‘No, I just twisted my ankle.’ And the story changed all of the sudden.”

Indeed, Mr. Cuellar said that one-third to half of all the lawsuits filed against his company every year are fictitious or overblown. Fictitious or not, however, all those lawsuits raise Mr. Cuellar’s insurance premiums, which are his second largest expense behind payroll.

In other words, spending nearly half a million dollars on cameras and DVRs is a drop in the bucket compared to what Mr. Cuellar would spend on a reward settlement, which could be in the millions.

Just one such reward settlement has the power to wipe out Mr. Cuellar’s small business.

But it’s not just store owners who suffer the expenses of frivolous lawsuits. Consumers pay as well. The Food Institute estimates that feeding a family of four will cost $4.16 per week more this year than last. That’s an extra $200 a family must spend this year.

Rising food prices are just one consequence of frivolous lawsuits. Mr. Cuellar notes that he could have invested a lot of the money he spent on cameras to hire more employees or cut prices. But the danger is too great.

“Being an entrepreneur, you always want to continue to grow,” Mr. Cuellar says. “But I do think twice about it, because of the things I can’t control.”

Unless we enact measures to combat lawsuit abuse, small business owners like Mr. Cuellar will continue to funnel their hard-earned money into protecting what they have, not building what they want.

18 comments

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  • Everywhere you look today you see more evil, and this has gotten worse than ever under the Obama administration. He encourages “thugs” and “terrorists” to bilk the system for all it’s worth, including freebies like cell phones and welfare to illegal aliens.

  • Really cannot use this, but I worked for a major national retailer. Our employee heard a person calling for help. She was on the floor in a puddle of water.

    When we looked at the video, we could see the customer squat, urinate, look around then “slip” in the wet spot.

  • I would love to see these business owners sue the plaintiffs and their lawyers for fraud. WWait till then to spring the video on them….

  • Mr. Cuellar isn’t just getting ripped off by lawsuit abuse, but by the company that sold him the camera system as well. A friend of mine is in that business and I just helped him install a similar system with 60 cameras and he billed his client less than $50,000!!!!

  • I wonder if the tapes will disappear when there is a legitimate injury and the store was negligent in causing it.

  • 250K for 69 cameras & 6 DVRs?!?!?!

    Wow that guy got the short end of the stick.

    I work in site security where I purchase & install such systems. The cameras we purchase are $250 each & the DVR systems we use, which have special security encryption features, handle 16 camera inputs are $4,000 each.

    So by what we use thats $250 X 69 = $17,250. You need 5 DVRs that cost $20,000 then probably about $10,000 for cable, power lines, ends, etc & that ends up with an estimate of $47,250 without labor.

    So I find it really hard to believe he coughed up 250K for his system. If he did he got screwed.

    I’m not doubting that there are abuses & too many frivolous lawsuits but I think the numbers are a wee bit exaggerated.

    Just my 2 cents

  • This kind of thing is disgraceful. These lawyers and judges need to be sanctioned. Forget the consumers! They wouldn’t be able to get away with this crap if not for the crooked injustice system! It’s an outrage…how lawyers can even look at themselves in the mirror each day…

    I’ve written a book about 19 years of workplace litigation I endured with my former employer, a huge public transit agency. In it, I talk extensively about this sort of nonsense. This kind of thing goes on in the workplace too and makes it bad for those of us who have legitimate claims. As such, you always feel like you’re trying to prove yourself above and beyond to compensate for the liars.

    I would love for Mr. Cueller to read my book when it comes out this month. I so feel his pain, it makes me want to cry. We have turned into a country of litigious maniacs.

    Thank you and God bless!

    Teresa

  • People cost the American People Trillion of dollars a years on bad lawsuit abuse in store. People think the insurance company will pay so they will abuse the store and the cost of insurance will keep going up for the store.

  • Wouldn’t the store be safe from a lawsuit just by virtue of the the fact that a claim of a slip and fall falls into the category of “his/her word against the store”? The person claiming a slip and fall obviously can’t prove it happened if it didn’t really happen. There wouldn’t be any evidence. The store owner need only not budge when someone makes a false accusation.

  • This all stinks. What about the lady who tried to give her son a better view of the wild dogs at the Pennsylvania zoo by lifting him up, then he falls in gets killed. Now she’s suing the zoo. Strange country where a mother is responsible for killing her child and has the audacity to sue someone else. Shame on her

  • I think I’d let them sue, then spring the video on them along with a charge of attempted fraud.

    But we need better laws (and ways) to punish people that introduce frivolous or false lawsuits. They rarely have any money to pay fines or judgements, maybe house arrest with an ankle bracelet, but with work privileges, for 6 months.

  • Legislature lawyers “stop” – “prevent” any law that would require the LOSING party to reimburse the winning party for their legal expenses. Lawyers get paid no matter what frivolous actions are taken by them or their clients.
    Legitimate claims get entangled in ‘clogged’ court schedules…and the attorneys bill even more for their time. Good people lose.

  • I used to be in the restaurant business. We had cameras installed for various reasons, but they ended up coming in handy dealing with slip and falls, supposedly broken teeth, and customer assaults. Love em.

  • I agree with Deskboy, I would like to see a penalty for those faking these situations. An acquaintance who owns a restaurant also has cameras everywhere, has filmed theft from employees, fake slip and fall from employees and customers, fraudulent “something” in the food (customer on film taking a piece of wire out of her purse and putting it into the food… laughing with friends about it… he has made a video and we kid him about putting it up on the internet, let others see who to not hire and refuse service too… it’s pathetic and the number of times those cameras have saved him makes them worth while, I think he said he receives a discount of his insurance because of them… as long as there is no penalty to them, there is no reason for them to stop doing what they are doing, they don’t care if they ruin someone…

  • People that file false claims should be aggressively procecuted and put in jail and that money put back into lowering prices; problem solved