Inadequate Property Security: Business Owners Have a Duty to Protect Their Customers

Business owners entice us onto their property through skillful marketing and clever advertising techniques, merchandise sales and attractive displays, and while on their premises, they have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to provide proper security to ensure their customers are safe from unreasonable risks of harm.

Inadequate security cases arise when a business owner knows of prior criminal activity on his property, yet fails to provide proper security against the known security danger and as a result, a customer is hurt on the property. Inadequate security cases frequently involve physical and sexual assaults and batteries occurring on the property yet when a customer is the victim of this type of violent crime, business owners typically try to avoid liability by arguing that the perpetrator of the crime is solely responsible for any injuries suffered by a customer. But that may not always be the case.

Business owners are typically not responsible for spontaneous crime that occurs on their property, and in some cases may be able to avoid liability if the victim knew their attacker, but if there is a history of criminal activity which the business owner knows or should have known about, or because of the nature of the business there is a foreseeable higher security risk, then the business owner has a legal duty to enact reasonable security measures to protect business patrons from an unreasonable risk of harm. The more criminal activity in the past, the more likely the business owner has a legal duty to provide security measures such as security cameras, better lighting, and even security guards.  These preventative measures are simply a cost of doing business for the business owner.

Factors to determine if the business owner failed to provide adequate property security include:

  1. Criminal History at the Site – the more frequently crime has occurred in the past, the more security measures property owners should take.
  2. The Time of the Event – if the criminal activity is more frequent at night, then more security measures should be taken at that time of day.
  3. Previous Claims Against the Business Owner
  4. The Perpetrator’s Criminal History – Did or could the business owner have known?
  5. Site of the Attack Itself – Is criminal activity foreseeable? Has crime happened before?
  6. Similar Businesses – what security measures did other nearby property owners take?
  7. Vigilance by the Victim for His/Her Own Safety – victims must also exercise reasonable care for their own safety and may be partly responsible for their own injuries for failure to do so.

To determine the level of responsibility when violent crimes occur in a business, the law must balance what was known, or should have been known, by the business owner and the victim about the past criminal history and the relative safety of the property.

If you or a loved one was injured due to inadequate security in a parking lot, movie theatre, shopping mall, apartment building or a premises other than a private home, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to find out your rights and get the compensation you deserve.