Property owners have a certain duty to tenants, visitors, and customers to keep the grounds safe and secure. When they fail to keep the environment safe and someone is injured as a result, property owners can be found liable under premises liability. Negligent and inadequate security is one subsection of premises liability, and it deals with a number of oversights by property owners.
Negligent and inadequate security is a problem at a number of locations, including:
- Apartment complexes and condominiums
- Parking lots
- Shopping centers
- Hotels and motels
- Sports arenas and stadiums
- Amusement parks
- Swimming pools
- Grocery stores
What Is Negligent or Inadequate Security?
Negligent and inadequate security deal with an owner or third-party security personnel not showing reasonable care for the safety of others. This lack of reasonable care can range from inadequate lighting in a mall parking lot to security guards who fail to step in during an assault.
Depending on the nature of the property, negligent and inadequate security claims will vary. Some examples of negligent or inadequate security include:
- Insufficient lighting in parking lots, parking garages, or another area on the property
- Failure to install proper locks on hotel or apartment doors
- Failure to install proper alarms
- Failure to monitor security cameras
- Failure to properly train and supervise staff
- Careless hiring of staff or security personnel
- Assault at the hands of overzealous security personnel
- Lack of lifeguards, leading to a drowning
- Security guards’ failure to step in during a mugging, assault, bar fight, or kidnapping
- Hospital security’s failure to stop a visitor from assaulting a patient or fellow visitor
Most negligent or inadequate security claims stem from inaction—a property owner’s failure to install sufficient security, a bouncer’s failure to step in during a fight, or the failure to properly train and supervise staff.
However, another type of negligent or inadequate security stems from action—a security guard or bouncer’s aggressive reaction to an incident. Assault by security personnel is a major premises liability issue, and it can result in serious injuries at a bar, casino, nightclub, or music venue. Security personnel are entitled to a certain amount of force when dealing with unruly guests or unwanted visitors, but the amount of force must be reasonable and appropriate for the situation. Security guards are not above the law, and they are required to fulfill their duties in a non-negligent manner.
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When Is a Property Owner Liable?
Property owners are not always liable for crimes that occur on their property. But when the crime in question was caused (at least partially) by inadequate security measures, the business owner can be found at fault.
A defense attorney will often argue that the assailant was the only one at fault in the incident. But it is the responsibility of the property owner to control the environment and minimize the risk of criminal activity. A well-established security system will decrease opportunities for criminal activities, and these systems often include security patrol, security cameras, access control (i.e. key cards or physical keys), adequate lighting, security surveys, and landscape design.
Owners and possessors of a property have certain duties to people who lawfully enter the premises. They have a responsibility to:
- properly maintain the property
- stay informed of any dangerous conditions
- warn any visitors or tenants
- rectify the dangerous situation.
The property’s criminal history can be a significant factor in negligent and inadequate security. If a certain property has a high rate of crime, the property owner has a responsibility to increase security measures. For example, if an apartment complex sees four muggings in the course of a month, the landlord has a duty to set up security cameras, install proper lighting, or hire security personnel to keep tenants safe; if the owner fails to do so and someone is injured in another mugging, the owner could be liable for the victim’s injuries. The key is establishing that a reasonable property owner would have recognized the security risk and put additional measures in place.
New York and New Jersey both follow the concept of “No One Free Crime.” Nallan v. Helmsley-Spear, Inc.established in 1980 that hotels, apartment complexes, and other similar businesses have a duty to “take reasonable steps to minimize the foreseeable danger to those unwary souls who might venture on to the premises.” But Jacqueline S. v. City of New York established that the past criminal history does not have to have taken place at the exact location where the plaintiff was harmed, and it does not have to be the same type of criminal activity as the previous incidents. For example, someone is mugged in an unlit parking lot, and three weeks later, someone else is abducted from outside the unlit building. The property owner cannot argue that the crime was unforeseeable just because it was a different crime in a different area of the property; the security was still inadequate and the property owner failed to address it.
How Can You Prove Liability?
Proving liability depends on a large number of factors, and an experienced premises liability attorney will be able to advise you on your specific case. In order to prove that a property owner is liable, you must establish:
- the owner was negligent in his or her security obligations
- the owner breached his or her duty of care to guests, patrons, or tenants
- the negligent security caused your harm or injury
A variety of evidence will be helpful when filing a negligent or inadequate security claim. Obtaining criminal history of the property, a police report from the incident, maintenance records for the property, medical records from your injuries, and eyewitness testimony will help bolster your case.
What Could I Win If I File Suit?
The amount you are eligible to win will depend on your injuries and the specifics of your incident. Plaintiffs in premises liability cases often pursue damages for:
- Medical costs, including hospital bills, ambulatory costs, prescriptions, medical supplies, rehabilitative care, transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, and the cost of ongoing care (if necessary)
- Wrongful death, in the case that the victim is killed and the family chooses to file suit
- Lost income and other expenses, including decreased earning capacity, housekeeping expenses, childcare, and more
- Pain and suffering, including loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, or inability to enjoy previous lifestyle
- Punitive damages, which are used to punish the defendant in cases when a property owner was egregiously negligent
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What Should I Do Next?
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of negligent or inadequate security, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi. Our experienced team of trial attorneys will walk you through your legal options and work out a plan to recover your losses. Call (201) 585-9111 or fill out our quick inquiry form today to get started.