ATMs: When Is a Bank Liable?

An investigation conducted by a South Florida TV team with the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found several banks not complying with safety-related standards for ATMs imposed by the state. The station asked an expert team to additionally check four area banks. The team found irregularities, particularly in lighting.

The findings raise a lot of questions, including whether the banks are negligently exposing customers to third-party attacks by virtue of their non-compliance with Florida ATM requirements. In the above case, the “experts” with whom the TV station contracted included experienced engineers from Scientific Expert Analysis who questioned the designs of some local ATMs.

At a minimum, a good personal injury attorney would look to the Florida law and advise that compliance is evidence of a bank’s commitment to the safety of customers. A well-lit ATM can discourage thieves, and a well-maintained ATM with landscaping trimmed can give thieves fewer places to hide. Not so clear is a complying bank’s liability when a forced ATM withdrawal still occurs at gunpoint or when a thief forces an off-premises customer to go on-premises to make an ATM withdrawal. Also, consider standards of proof, particularly if a local bank were non-compliant with Florida ATM regulations. Other thorny questions abound, including whether a warning sign posted in the vicinity of the ATM is sufficient to relieve a bank of liability.

These days, ATMs are a fixture. But, these machines attract criminals who are ready, willing and able to separate a customer from his or her money. Federal and Florida law apply, and there is a big problem when a TV crew finds banks not in compliance with state law.

Source: NBC 6, “Some Banks Not Following Rules to Keep You Safe at ATMs“, Willard Shepard, November 20, 2013