Negligent security cases take many forms. Some of the most common are when landowners and property managers fail to protect their customers inside their businesses and in their parking lots. Many cases also arise when apartment complexes fail to protect their tenants and their guests.
Thousands of negligent security cases are filed across the United States every year. Landowners and property managers have a duty to protect lawful visitors to their property by taking reasonable security measures to protect lawful visitors from foreseeable criminal acts. Over the course of years, property owners and managers have developed several defenses to cases where someone alleges they failed to meet their duty to protect their visitors.
Status of the Injured Person
Invitees are people who are expressly or impliedly invited to the property by the owner or manager. These can include store customers and guests of apartment tenants. Owners and managers must exercise reasonable care to keep their premises safe for invitees. A licensee, on the other hand, is someone who is not a customer, servant, or trespasser, and is allowed to come onto the property for her own interests. Owners and manager are only liable to licensees when they know or have reason to know of a dangerous condition and fail to take reasonable steps to fix it or warn the licensee of it. Trespassers are people who go onto properties without permission. Owners and operators only owe trespassers a duty not to willfully injure them.
If you are injured due to negligent security, one of the first things the lawyers for the owners and managers will try to do is argue that you are a licensee or a trespasser, instead of an invitee.
Negligent security cases are based on the idea that owners’ and managers’ knowledge of the hazards on their property is superior to the injured person’s knowledge of those hazards. When a property’s visitor knows of a hazardous condition (such as the possibility of being injured by a criminal act), the owner and operator have no duty to notify the visitor of the hazard. When an injured person knew of the criminal activity, the law says that they assumed the risk of being injured, and they cannot recover from the owner or operator.
If you are injured due to negligent security, the lawyers for the owners and managers will try to argue that your knowledge of risk was equal to the owner’s and manager’s knowledge.
Owners and operators are only required to protect visitors from foreseeable criminal acts. Criminal acts normally are considered foreseeable when an injured proves there were “substantially similar” acts taking place on the property before the incident in which they were injured. This does not mean the acts have to have been identical to the acts that injured the person. However, if an apartment complex had only experienced burglaries and auto thefts prior to the crime that injured someone, a court may find the complex’s owner and operator were not required to protect an injured person from a shooting in the parking lot, because a shooting is not substantially similar to burglary or auto theft.
The classic negligent security case is when a totally innocent person is attacked by a stranger to rob them or as a random act of violence. However, sometimes people are targeted by criminals while on a property. When that happens, the law recognizes that it is very difficult to protect someone from a person who has premeditated a crime specifically targeting the victim. Reasonable security measures often are not powerful enough to protect victims like these, and it is very difficult for an owner or operator to foresee such crimes. As a result, injured people rarely recover when they are the specific target of a criminal act. As a rule of thumb, the longer the criminal thinks about attacking someone, the harder it is for the injured person to recover.
If you are injured due to negligent security, the lawyers for the owners and managers will try to argue that you were a criminal specific target, instead of an innocent victim who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Fault to Criminals
In Georgia, defendants are allowed to ask the jury the assign at least a portion of the blame to someone other than themselves. This is called “apportionment.” When someone is attacked by a criminal on a premises, it is very common for premises owners and managers to argue that the criminal is the only person to blame. Juries sometimes assign most or all of the blame to the criminal, and other times they assign most or all of it to the owner or operator.
If you are injured due to negligent security, the lawyers for the owners and operators will try to argue that the person who pulled the trigger, stabbed you, etc. deserves all the blame for your injuries. The best attorneys who represent injured people will show the jury that the criminal’s act was just a continuation of activity the owner and manager knew was happening, but did not do enough to stop.
Juries can apportion fault to more than just criminals – they can apportion it to the injured person as well. For every percentage point of blame the jury attributes to the injured person, that is one percent of their total damages they cannot recover from anyone. In Georgia, if the injured person is found to be 50% or more at fault for their injuries, they cannot recover anything from anyone.
If you are injured due to negligent security, the owner and manager will argue it’s your own fault. They may argue that you did not exercise reasonable care for your own safety, or that you somehow provoked the criminal into harming you.
Negligent security cases are a specialty for the lawyers at Rafi Law Firm. If you believe you were injured due to negligent security, contact us for a free consultation by clicking here or calling 404-800-9933.