While private property owners generally do not have a duty to protect those on their property from third party attacks, property owners do have an obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment. The relationship the property owner has with those on his or her property and the foreseeability of a potential attack may require additional measures, however, for the owner of a property to meet such an obligation.
If someone is invited as a guest or for business reasons (including patrons of a business), many states impose a high duty of care on a property owner to take reasonable safety precautions. Reasonable precautions may include keeping common areas and hallways well lit, providing sturdy locks on doors and windows, making sure that suspicious-looking people are not loitering on the premises, and posting warnings of potential security hazards.
A criminal attack is considered foreseeable if it could have or should have been reasonably anticipated, or if a person exercising ordinary caution would expect it to take place under the existing circumstances. While states differ on how they establish the foreseeability of an attack, the following thresholds are generally agreed upon:
Did the owner have knowledge of a threat by a specific perpetrator at a specific time?
Was there evidence of violent or other crimes on or around the premises?
Can foreseeability have been determined after considering the layout and location of the premises, the nature of the business conducted, or other relevant factors?
Were security measures adopted sufficient when balancing their cost and availability against the foreseeable likelihood and severity of a crime?
When a property owner fails to provide reasonable security measures, he or she may be exposing him or herself to liability for injuries that are determined to have been caused by a breach of his or her legal duty. Reasonable security measures may include:
- Contracting a reliable and qualified security service
- Installing security systems and actively monitoring security cameras
- Developing building access control measures
- Creating a security plan
- Employing one-use hotel room key cards
- Installing ATM panic buttons
Another measure many businesses take in order to protect themselves against claims for their failure to take reasonable precautions is to carry premises liability insurance. Attorneys who work on behalf of the property owner or his or her insurance company are likely to use one of the following arguments to avoid legal responsibility for injuries arising from criminal assaults on their property:
Contributory negligence – the victim failed to exercise reasonable care and therefore was at least partially responsible for the injury
Liability for the injuries should be apportioned between their own breach of duty and that of the conduct of the perpetrator
The perpetrator’s criminal profile is such that no reasonable security measures would have deterred him or her from committing the crime
Negligent security lawsuits often involve preventable human suffering. But in order to prevail, you need the assistance of an experienced negligent security or premises liability attorney who can readily avail him or herself to the services of security experts to support your negligent security lawsuit. Please contact us to find an experienced negligent security attorney in your area.