Negligent Security: A Guide for Victims
By Adam J. Langino, Esq.
Businesses are required to provide a reasonably safe environment. That includes a place where customers or visitors are protected from criminal activity, like robbery or assault. The following article discusses common security issues and the types of evidence that must be uncovered to bring a successful lawsuit.
What is Negligent Security?
Negligent security is the concept that a business or property owner must protect its customers or visitors from foreseeable harm. Essentially, the law requires business owners to use reasonable measures to protect their customers from criminal activity when the business owner knew or should have known that illegal activity was likely to occur. In the law, this concept is called foreseeability.
There is more than one way to prove foreseeability, and the facts and circumstances of each case are different. Generally, an injured person is not required to prove that the business owner should have foreseen the criminal act in the exact form in which it occurred. Typically, it must only be proven that the business owner should have anticipated that some injury would result from its failure to provide a reasonably safe environment.
In investigating a negligent security claim, a good starting point is finding evidence of prior criminal incidents at or near the location. The most common way to do this is to request information from the local police department for any crime reports that include the address where the incident occurred. Requesting CAD reports is also a good option to further expand the search. "CAD" or Computer-Aided Dispatch reports capture all calls concerning criminal activity at a specific location regardless if an official crime report was made. If it turns out that where the incident took place is known to be a high crime area, then it is more likely that the criminal activity was foreseeable to the business.
There is no bright-line regarding how far back in time the records request should go. Typically, the courts differ on the scope of relevancy. However, a five-year request is reasonable in most circumstances. When reviewing the reports, a careful eye must examine the facts of each case. Similar past incidents are likely more persuasive than dissimilar incidents. Ultimately, based on the evidence presented at trial jury will decide if the criminal activity was foreseeable to the business owner.
Common Types of Negligent Security Claims
Negligent security can take many different forms. Below are some common examples of negligent claims.
Access gates to communities should work. When locks are missing, or entryways are unguarded, criminals have access to areas where victims believe they are protected.
Cameras must be monitored. If cameras are not monitored, potential attacks are less likely to be diverted. They should also be placed to achieve an unhindered view of the area.
Landscaping should not create hiding spots. Tall trees, bushes, mounds, or hills may obscure security cameras or a good field of vision, making hiding spots for criminals.
Lighting in dark places must be sufficient to deter criminals from lying in wait. Broken light bulbs, inadequate lighting, or not keeping the lights on long enough increase the opportunity for criminal activity. Lighting in open parking lots should also be placed to provide maximum coverage and visibility, with minimum shadows and hiding opportunities.
Parking lot security alarms should be operational and visible. If they are not, a victim may be unable to call for help when needed.
Security guards have to do their job. If they are not patrolling their area or monitoring their security cameras, they cannot protect a victim in the event of an attack.
There is not a one size fits all approach to any negligent security claim. A jury decides if the property owner acted reasonably in protecting their customers.
I am sorry if you are reading this because another assaulted you or someone you love at a business because of a security issue. I hope that you found the above helpful. As you can see, negligent security claims are complicated. That is why it is critical to retain an experienced lawyer to help you navigate these types of claims. Over my career, I have handled many negligent security claims, and I am licensed to practice law in Florida and North Carolina and co-counsel claims in other states. If you would like to learn more about me or my practice, click here. If you want to request a free consultation, click here. As always, stay safe and stay well.