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Premises Liability: Claims for Victims of Criminal Acts

Premises liability is an area of law that deals with incidents that are caused by an unsafe or defective condition on one’s property. These claims are generally based on a property owner or business’ negligence. All property owners have an obligation to maintain a safe environment on their premises.

One of the more common types of premises liability claims we handle arise from a business’ failure to provide adequate security. The victim of a criminal attack can present a negligent/inadequate security claim based upon the duty imposed on business/property owners for their failure to offer or provide reasonable security measures and to protect invitees from foreseeable crimes by third parties.

In essence, the argument is that the crime would have been prevented by the business, or made less likely to occur, if the business used appropriate security measures.

In order to be successful in these types of claims, a plaintiff must show:

1. The plaintiff was authorized to be on the premises at the time of the incident;

2. The owner or property owner had a duty to exercise ordinary care to make the premises safe for the plaintiff;

3. The property owner failed to exercise ordinary care in performing its duty to make the premises safe and did not protect the plaintiff from the criminal actions of a third party; and

4. The attack, or crime, would not have occurred if the business fulfilled its duty, or took reasonable steps to make the premises safe.

Even when these elements are met, a plaintiff must show that the criminal act was reasonably foreseeable. The Georgia Court of Appeals previously held that a property owner is not an insurer for one’s safety, and an intervening criminal act by a third party generally insulates a business owner from liability unless such criminal act was reasonably foreseeable. However, if the business has a reason to anticipate the criminal act, the business then has a duty to exercise ordinary care to guard against injury from dangerous, criminal activity. One of the most common ways to show that a crime is foreseeable to a business is by showing that similar crimes have occurred at or near the property in question, so the owner is or should be on notice that more crimes might occur.

Some examples of negligent security cases include:

1. Club shootings, both inside the venue and in the parking lot;

2. Attacks in apartment complexes, parking garages;

3. Hotel shootings and robberies; and

4. Sexual assaults in condominiums and apartment complexes.

Disclaimer: This article is for information and educational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create any sort of attorney-client relationship.

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