When someone is robbed, assaulted, or otherwise attacked in public, one’s first reaction is to blame the attacker. We do not often take time to think whether anyone else may be responsible for injuries resulting from an attack. A property owner may be liable for failing to provide proper security for those who enter the premises.
A legal doctrine known as negligent security states, a property owner who knows or should know of possible criminal activity on his property has a duty to take reasonable measures to prevent or minimize the chance that criminals will victimize customers or guests.
Negligent Security Situations
Negligent security can take different forms. Some examples are:
-A shopping area that fails to provide security guards in dark or isolated parking lots;
-A concert venue that fails to employ adequate security to control drunk, surging, or rowdy crowds;
-A storeowner who requires customers to park far from the store, in dark or isolated areas;
-An apartment complex landlord who fails to provide adequate security proportional to the size of the complex;
-A store that fails to provide security in its parking lot, even though it caters to elderly patrons, who criminals are more likely to target.
Not every criminal attack makes a property owner liable for personal injuries occurring on the premises. To determine whether a property owner provides sufficient security, we look primarily at an element known as “foreseeability,” which asks whether one ought to foresee a crime could occur in a certain setting. For example, a shopping plaza with a history of thefts or muggings is effectively on notice that a crime could occur there in the future, and therefore has a heightened duty to provide adequate security.
In many cases, a security expert can be hired to analyze whether sufficient security measures exist, or whether security guards are properly trained.
The need for security can also vary depending on the circumstances. For example, a shopping plaza without many patrons may require more security when it holds an event that draws thousands of people. In addition, a store may not need as much security in the daytime, but may require more at night, when crime rates rise.
Problems in Negligent Security Cases
Difficult questions arise in negligent security cases, including who is primarily responsible the injury–the store without adequate security, or the individual who committed the crime? Property owners will claim that, even with the best security, the crimes would occur nonetheless.
Many states refuse to allow property owners to escape liability by shifting blame onto the criminals. To do so would mean allowing property owners to avoid providing any sorts of security measures. Many states even prevent negligent property owners from sharing liability with an intentional actor, such as a criminal.