An injured person can bring an “inadequate security” lawsuit because society expects landowners and possessors of property to offer reasonable security measures and protect lawful visitors from foreseeable crimes of third parties. Negligent security assumes that the crime could have been prevented or made less likely by using appropriate security measures.
Inadequate Security Lawsuits
What Are Inadequate Security Lawsuits?
Inadequate security lawsuits are a negligence claim category under the premises liability subcategory. In premises liability lawsuits, the plaintiff is trying to hold a property owner liable for failing to provide adequate security for business patrons, including students on a college campus or shoppers in a shopping center. A premises liability case is usually not possible if based on criminal acts done by third parties because the property owner is believed to be unable to prevent 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 was a foreseeable possibility. The plaintiff usually seeks damages from the business owner or an injunction requiring them to change their security policies.
As mentioned, inadequate security lawsuits are negligence claims, a civil (not criminal) wrong. “Negligence” means an individual’s failure to use reasonable care, which results in injury or damage to another.
When a negligence claim arises, a plaintiff is responsible for proving that a defendant was negligent. There are four elements a plaintiff must show to prove a defendant’s negligence, including:
- Duty – The defendant must have owed the plaintiff a duty of reasonable care. In cases of inadequate security, proving duty will involve analyzing the responsibility to ensure the customer or public safety.
- Breach – Once a plaintiff shows that a defendant owed them a duty of reasonable care, they must show that the defendant breached that duty. This includes the need to show that the defendant could foresee the possible risks that could have impacted the plaintiff’s health or safety and did not adequately prepare for them. Here, the breach will involve failure to take adequate security precautions.
- Causation – The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries or loss. The defendant’s liability may be reduced if it can be shown that other factors contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Damages – The plaintiff must have suffered some damage, loss, or injury
How to Prove a Claim For Inadequate Security – Level of Security Needed
Courts usually hold business owners to a “reasonableness” standard. Business owners are only required to provide reasonable security for that business operation.
A court needs to consider these factors when determining whether or not security is adequate:
- Level of security needed: Some businesses require more security measures than others. For example, certain establishments like bars, dance clubs, lounges, and casinos are generally expected to provide more security staff. If a neighborhood has had numerous previous claims of crime break-ins, if the property is located in a high crime area, and if the business owner had knowledge of this but did not install adequate security to protect employees and the public, the business owner may be found negligent.
- On the other hand, one would expect lower levels of security for safer businesses whose traffic tends to fall in the daytime, such as grocery stores, shopping malls, and coffee shops.
- Crime demographics and statistics in the area: If there are previous claims of local break-ins or if the property is located in a high crime area, and the business owner had knowledge of this but did not install adequate security to protect employees and the public, the business owner may be found negligent. On the other hand, areas with low crime demographics are associated with lower protection needs.
- Location of the incident: If a crime took place in a populated area of the business, such as the lobby or entrance, there is a greater chance that the owner may be held liable because the expectation that there will be adequate security in these areas is high. In comparison, high security is not reasonably expected in a less populated alleyway behind a building or in a remote area of a parking lot.
What Type of Duty is Owed?
The type of duty owed varies depending on the type of business. Listed below are examples of different kinds of duty:
- Administrative duty: A business or property owner should have a system for reporting and collecting information about criminal activity on or near the premises. This is evidence of the amount of crime that has occurred nearby, which affects the duty of providing a particular level of security. Maintaining this system can protect the property owner because it shows the owner was tracking crime for his customers’ and employees’ benefit.
- Interior security and exterior security: Property owners should have effective security policies and measures inside the building premises as well as outside the building. For both inside and outside, measures like installing and maintaining proper lighting must be done. It is also important to make sure that a business owner is familiar with all areas of the premises in case something goes wrong.
- Employee security: Employers should do in-depth background checks on prospective job applicants to protect other employees from dangerous or unstable individuals. This is especially important if the type of employment deals with vulnerable people such as children or elders. They should also adequately train and supervise their employees to recognize any activity that may be seen as suspicious.
What Damages or Remedies is a Plaintiff Entitled to?
The most common remedy awarded in a civil tort case (negligence is a type of tort) is compensatory damages. These are monetary damages awarded to a plaintiff for economic harm such as medical expenses, lost wages, or costs related to repairing or replacing damaged property. Monetary damages can also be awarded to compensate the victim for their pain and suffering or emotional distress.
A non-monetary award may involve the court issuing an injunction, ordering the defendant to start doing something or stop doing something – the thing that caused the harm to the plaintiff. For example, a defendant liable for spilling toxic substances may be ordered to pay monetary damages and may also be ordered to clean up the spill, investigate the cause of the spill, and stop doing whatever action or lack of action was the cause of the spill.
Though it is rare, in some cases, plaintiffs are awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for their gross negligence or intentional harm. Punitive damages are rare because they are only awarded in the most egregious cases, where the court or jury feels normal compensatory damages are insufficient.
Will I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with an Inadequate Security Lawsuit?
Legal requirements for business owners and security are constantly changing and very complicated. For these reasons, it’s best to contact a competent personal injury attorney in your area for assistance with an inadequate security lawsuit or legal issue.
An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to explain your situation and your options to you. They will also have experience negotiating settlements of disputes. Finally, they will represent your interests in a court of law if necessary.
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