Inadequate security lawsuits usually fall under the category of premises liability claims. In such lawsuits, the plaintiff is attempting to hold a property owner liable for failing to provide security for business patrons, such as shoppers in a store or students on a college campus. The plaintiff is usually seeking a damages award from the business owner or an injunction requiring them to change their security policies.
A premises liability case is usually limited for criminal acts done by third parties since the property owner cannot anticipate criminal acts of another. However, a property owner may be held liable for criminal acts of third parties if the property owner knew or should have known that criminal conduct is common in surrounding areas.
The duties of business and property owner fall into categories:
- Administrative Duty: A business and property owner must have a proper system for reporting and collecting information of criminal activity on or near premises
- Interior Security: They should have an effective security policies and measures inside the building premises
- External Security: The must install security systems and have proper lighting in parking areas and access areas
- Employee Security: They should do background checks on job applicants and employees if the type of employment deals with people such as children or elders. They should also adequately train and supervise their employees to recognize suspicious activity.
Under premises liability theories, business owners owe their patrons a duty of care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Whether or not the “duty of care” includes providing security depends on several different factors.
There are three basic factors that a court considers when determining whether security was adequate enough:
- The Nature of the Business Premises: Some businesses require more security measures than others. For example, alcohol-serving establishments like bars, lounges, dance nightclubs, and casinos are generally expected to provide security staff. On the other hand, one wouldn’t expect high amounts of security for businesses like restaurants or furniture stores
- Crime Demographics and Statistics in the Area: If the business is located in an area that has a high potential of crimes based on statistics, the owner may have a heightened duty to provide clients with security. This is especially true where the owner has direct knowledge of high crime rates in the area. On the other hand, lower crime demographics are associated with lower security needs
- Location of the Incident: If an assault occurred in a high-traffic area of the business, such as the entrance or lobby, there is a greater chance that the owner may be held liable. In comparison, security is not reasonably expected in a dark alleyway behind the building, or in a remote area of a parking lot
A court needs to consider these factors when determining whether or not security was adequate in a business establishment. In most cases, courts hold business owners to a “reasonableness” standard. That is, business owners are only required to provide a degree of security that is reasonable for that type of business operation.
Most inadequate secrurity cases involve crimes or accidents that take place on property because of the owners negligent security procedures. A court may take note of various “conditions” that can affect the business owner’s liability in providing security. These conditions include:
- Physical Conditions: Examples include: the lighting in/around the business; the presence of locks on doors; any large holes in fences or walls where intruders can enter the establishment; noise conditions; dense foliage growth around the area; and warning signs
- Procedural” Conditions: These relate to the way that the security staff manages their duties, including: frequency of patrols; schedules for turning off lights and locking doors; policies for handling cash; security guard self-defense training; and procedures for reporting incidents
- Prior Criminal Conduct: Property owner was aware the of known threat of criminal conduct because of previous crimes in the area, but failed to provide adequate security measures.
Legal requirements for business owners and security are constantly subject to change. For these reasons, it’s in your best interest to contact a competent lawyer for assistance with an inadequate security lawsuit. An experienced personal injury attorney can represent your interests in court and argue in your favor.