December 30, 2018
Not listening gets you sued
April 9, 2019
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Negligent/Inadequate Security

Negligent security is a species of premises liability dealing with an injured invitee or employee who can sue commercial landowners, commercial businesses and here recently commercial real estate management companies because they were injured during a robbery, battery, rape or many other ways.

Under Federal Law the Supreme Court has held for many years that a commercial property owner and the tenants of these properties have a duty to protect invitees and employees against third party criminal acts by third party criminal actors. It was not until a couple of years ago when a property owner successfully got out of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit claiming that the management company ran all day to day operations of a property and that it was their responsibility to not only hire security but also to make sure that the security hired was properly trained and licensed. The management company was then successfully sued and lost. Three months after the case they had to close operations and sell off all assets to cover the award because insurance only covered a portion.

Both commercial land owners and Commercial possessors have been successfully sued for negligent security. These suites have come in many forms from security having lack of training to deal with certain situations or not stopping a crime in the commission prior to someone being hurt.

The reason an injured person can bring suites now so easily is because of the Supreme Courts ruling imposed on commercial businesses to offer reasonable security measures to protect invitees and employees from foreseeable crimes brought by third parties. Negligent security claims are easy to win by plaintiffs if only they show that a crime could have been prevented or at least made less likely by using appropriate security measures by trained security officers and proactive security measures.

Both commercial Businesses and residential landowners have been successfully sued for negligent security, but their duties may vary. For example, a student of a college is not able to provide adequate security measures at his or her dormitory, and so the college has a substantial duty to provide adequate security measures. Similarly, a commercial tenant, such as a retail business at a mall, may have a duty to protect those that shop at the business from foreseeable criminal attacks, but the commercial property owners and managers have a duty to protect the overall mall. On the other hand, a residential tenant may have control of what happens to a guest inside his or her apartment but may not have a duty to take security measures to protect the guest in the apartment complex’s parking lot and this falls upon the shoulders of the apartment’s management.

Why sue the owner, business and management company of the property rather than the person who committed the violent act or crime? Generally, it is easier for an employee, invitee and visitor to locate the owner, business and management companies rather than a stranger who perpetrated a crime. Moreover, the owner, possessor and management companies have a duty set forth by the Supreme Court and is more likely to have insurance against which a judgment can be enforced so that the damages can be recovered.

What does a plaintiff need to prove?

Under the restatement (Second) of torts, a plaintiff suing for negligent security will only need to show…

  1. That the Owner of the property, Business renting said property and the Management who manages the property failed to exercise reasonable care to discover similar prior criminal activity in the vicinity or failed to give adequate warnings to visitors and employees so they could avoid injury.
  2. Will need to show that they were lawfully present on the defendant’s property by renting, working, shopping or visiting.
  3. The defendant breached his duty of reasonable security measures or failed to hire trained security who could have stopped the crime. I.E; hiring an unarmed security officer who could not stop an armed robber or active shooter, hiring a security officer to patrol the parking lot who does not stop criminal actors, security patrols who fail to remove unwanted guests, or security patrols who do not provide proactive security messuresetc…
  4. The plaintiff was hurt because of the third party’s acts that were reasonably foreseeable by defendant and that the plaintiff incurred actual harm and actual damages.

Foreseeability is a critical issue in negligent security cases. What is even more troubling is that most businesses determine security necessity on these public crime maps which are not at all accurate and most good attorney’s who specialize in premises liability know how to get hardcore data to use in court. The courts also consider how frequently law enforcement has been called to a property, the closeness in times, prior criminal types in a area, property loss, injury and if trained security could have prevented this.

What counts as adequate security?

Adequate security for a particular property will vary from case to case and a majority of security companies do not send out a security consultant to walk the property with management, they send out a trained sales lead who does not know the first thing of premises liability nor do they do a site inspection with the property management to point out lighting needs, Security hardware such as locks, security issues which could arise and this sets a lot of premises up with liability issues.

We are looking at having a one-day, two-hour block of instruction for our clients on this topic free of charge.

We will be notifying current clients on this once set up. We have been getting tremendous feed back from one of our other classes and new clients wanting to get onboard as most did not know just how much liability was involved in business.


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