Negligent security is a form of premises liability involving serious physical injury or death that arises when a property owner fails to take reasonable and adequate measures to prevent criminal activity.
While shootings, stabbings, fights, sexual assault, and other acts of violence can occur almost anywhere, certain property owners have a duty to provide security measures that adequately protect guests on their property, be it a parking lot, apartment complex, bar, restaurant, or other place of business.
Negligent security laws vary from state to state, but in most cases, the establishment owner or contractor charged with providing security can be held liable if they neglected to implement proper measures to prevent foreseeable criminal attacks.
Foreseeability is a central issue in negligent security cases. Courts in most states will determine whether a property owner knew or should have known risks based on prior crimes in and around the same location.
For example, if there are reports of previous armed robberies, sexual assaults, rape, or other acts of violence in the parking garage of a building, the court will likely determine that the risks to anyone using that garage were foreseeable to the property owner or possessor. Other factors, including how often police have been called to the property in the past and the proximity in time of previous crimes to the injuries at issue can also affect the degree of foreseeability.
In addition to how foreseeable the crime at issue was to the defendant, plaintiffs with negligent security lawsuits will have to demonstrate a number of other points in court, including:
- That he/she/they were lawfully present on the defendant’s property;
- That the defendant was aware of or should have known about prior criminal activities of an assaultive nature on the property;
- That the defendant failed to adequately warn visitors of risks so they could avoid injury;
- The defendant failed in its duty to provide reasonable security;
- The plaintiff would not have been injured had the defendant not breached its duty to provide effective and/or adequate security;
- The plaintiff suffered actual damages as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty.
Unfortunately, in this day and age where gun violence, mental health, drug trafficking, and gang violence adversely impact so many neighborhoods, we still see incidents of violence resulting in physical harm and death that could have been prevented had the property owner or security contractor taken simple precautions to keep everyone lawfully present on the property safe.