If you are staying at a hotel, motel, or entering a business, a property owner is supposed to take reasonable steps to assure that a duty of care is upheld on said property. This includes the idea that you should be safe from all harm, including that which involves security.
So what is an inadequate security lawsuit? These claims fall under premises liability, where a plaintiff is attempting to hold a property owner liable for failing to provide security for its business patrons. A simple question to ask is: Is there a rise in crime around the surrounding area where the security breach took place? If a property owner knew that criminal conduct was popular in this area, then further precautions should have been taken to assure safety.
There are really three main factors that a court will consider when they are making a determination of whether or not security was adequate. These factors include:
- Nature of Business Premises: It is a fact of matter that some businesses (such as bars or lounges) will require more security staff than a place like a restaurant or a furniture store. Proper measures should be taken to make this decision.
- Crime Demographics/Statistics for Area: Does the area in which the business resides have a lot of potential for crimes? Then the owner may have a higher duty to protect its customers or visitors from crimes. However, in a place that has low crime rates, less security may be necessary.
- Location of Incident: One must consider where the incident took place. Security isn’t always expected to be in places like back alleys or remote parking lots; they are more likely to be in high-traffic areas.
Specific Laws for New York and New Jersey
In the states of New York and New Jersey, there is a concept known as “No One Free Crime,” and there are two prime examples of this. The first is a case known as Nallan v. Helmsley-Spear, Inc. that established that hotels, apartment complexes, and many other businesses must take steps to minimize foreseeable dangers to unwary souls that may venture onto the premises. In another case, known as Jacqueline S. v. City of New York, it was established that past criminal history doesn’t have to take place where the plaintiff was harmed. Consider a case where someone is mugged in a parking lot and, three weeks later, someone happens to be abducted from the building. A property owner cannot argue that the crime was unforeseeable due to the fact that the crimes took place in different areas. Security is still seen as inadequate.
Speaking of foreseeability, what does this imply? Foreseeability is a huge issue when it comes to negligent security. If similar incidents all happened in the same area and nothing was done to address the issue; meanwhile, incidents continued onward, this was foreseeable and somebody needs to be held liable. A court may consider how frequently law enforcement was called onto a property and what closeness in time there was dealing with the crimes. A plaintiff will need to go to lengths to prove that a landowner failed to exercise reasonable care to discover prior criminal activities in the area (Justia).
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What Safety and Prevention Measures Can Be Instilled?
This can vary greatly from state to state. Periodic inspections to specific premises and properties where incidents occurred can reduce the number of criminal incidents taking place. Inspectors should address hazards immediately to help reduce exposure to invitees, licensees, and trespassers (Legal Examiner).
Cases In Which Inadequate Security Played a Role
In a recent case taken by Michael Maggiano against Motel 6, Chuck de Caro was shot by a gunman in one of their motels while saving his wife’s life. It was an event of a robbery gone wrong; though first responders were able to act quickly and save his life. De Caro was uneasily stabilized, lost a lot of blood, and was hanging onto every bit of life he had left due to the fact that the specific Motel 6 in question had inadequate security and should have taken proper precautions to prevent burglars. It wasn’t the first time that crimes were seen in that specific area.
In another case, an apartment resident was attacked by a felon and sustained multiple fractures when she jumped from a window in her escape. She was able to recover $1,826,000 against the property owner in the case. It was believed that inadequate security was at play, which made her case.
The Owner’s Duty to Provide Adequate Security
Every property owner has a duty to protect those that come onto the property looking to do business. Therefore, business and property owners alike must provide adequate security in the following ways:
- Administrative Duty: A proper system must be in place to report and collect information for criminal activity in the general area of the premises.
- Interior Security: Policies and measures should be taken to assure that security is effective inside the building.
- External Security: Security systems and proper lighting needs to be in parking areas and access areas around the premises.
- Employee Security: Background checks should be done on all employees if children and elders are involved. Adequate training and supervision should also come into play so that employees can recognize suspicious activity happening.
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Inadequate Security and “Conditions”
There are various conditions that can affect the business owner’s liability in providing security. These conditions come into play when security is inadequate and crimes/accidents take place due to this. Negligent security procedures cause unsightly accidents that can lead to injuries and, unfortunately, fatalities in some situations.
The conditions mentioned are:
- Physical Conditions: These conditions include lighting around the business, presence of locks on doors, large holes in fences or walls that allow intruders, noise conditions, dense foliage growth, and warning signs.
- Procedural Conditions: These conditions relate to the way that security staff manages duties and include frequency of patrols, light and door-locking schedules, policies for cash handling, security guard self-defense, and procedures for reporting incidents.
- Prior Criminal Conduct: This refers to a property owner knowing that there was a threat of criminal conduct because of crimes taking place in that area, but failing to share this knowledge or increase security measures.
Security is a very important thing when it comes to keeping a business safe, whether it’s a hotel, motel, or other establishment with consumers and visitors. However, the legal requirements for security are always subject to change from state to state.
This is why it is very important to contact an experienced attorney who will be able to aid you in your claim. At Maggiano, DiGIrolamo & Lizzi P.C we have the knowledge and experience, we know premise liability litigation.
If you have been injured due to hotel or motel inadequate security, act now and contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo and Lizzi for a free consultation. They will work with you to get you the compensation you deserve!
To learn more about hotel/ motel’s responsibility for guest security click here. Attorney Michael Maggiano goes in depth on investigative and litigation issues involving hotels and motels in inadequate security.