SW Legal studies in Business

Firm Breached Contract, but Not Liable in Tort for Wrongful Death Claim

Appeals court held that a mistake by a home alarm company was a breach of contract, but that the company could not be sued in tort for a death that was alleged to have result from the failure to respond properly to an alarm call.

Topic Contracts
Key Words

Wrongful death; Alarm Service

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Spengler had a residential services contract with ADT to install and monitor a security alarm at the home of his mother, Veronica. It included a portable call button alarm that she could activate when in distress. Due to medical problems, Veronica could not speak, so ADT had instructions to call Spengler in the event of an alarm. ADT received an alarm and dispatched an ambulance, but gave the ambulance the wrong address, which delayed their arrival by about 15 minutes. By the time the ambulance arrived, Veronicaís heart had stopped and she soon died. Spengler sued, claiming that the giving of the wrong address was misfeasance that made ADT subject to tort suit. The trial court held that Spenglerís damages were limited to the $500 limit specified in the contract and that he had no cause of action in tort. He appealed.


Affirmed. Under Michigan law, for an action in tort to arise out of a breach of contract, the act must constitute 1) a breach of duty separate and distinct from the breach of contract and 2) active negligence or misfeasance. ADTís obligation was to dispatch emergency services and there was no independent duty beyond the contract. Beach of the contract specified a $500 limit in damages that could be claimed. That applies in this case.


Spengler v. ADT Security Services, Inc., 505 F.3d 456 (6th Cir., 2007)

Back to Contracts Listings

©1997-2008  South-Western Legal Studies in Business. All Rights Reserved.