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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

Florida personal injury lawyers

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Can Property Owners Be Held Liable for Sexual Assaults that Occur on the Premises?

A sexual assault is a violent, traumatic act that is typically handled through the criminal justice system. But in cases where a victim is sexually assaulted at a commercial property, such as a shopping center, restaurant/bar, apartment complex, or hotel, the owner of the property may be held liable if it can be shown that the assault would likely not have occurred had the property been equipped with adequate security measures. These situations involve a subcategory of premises liability law known as negligent security.

What is Negligent Security?

Under premises liability law, property owners have a duty to maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition for those who are invited onto the premises. This means that property owners must take reasonable steps to inspect for dangerous conditions, and either fix them or warn visitors about their existence. A negligent security case may arise when these dangerous conditions involve inadequate security measures. For example, negligent security cases often feature defects such as the following:

  • Dim or broken lighting in parking lots, staircases, walkways, or other dark areas
  • Malfunctioning security cameras
  • A lack of security guards, which are particularly important in higher crime areas
  • Broken locks on doors and windows in hotels or apartments
  • Inadequate key control or access control
  • Failure to have functioning or repaired gates and fences

When a property owner allows these or several other types of inadequate security measures to exist, it becomes more likely that a sexual assault or other violent crime will occur on the premises. While the victims of these egregious acts typically face a long road to physical, emotional, and psychological healing, pursuing a negligent security claim against the property owner can help them recover damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other harms stemming from the attack.

To successfully establish a negligent security claim, plaintiffs must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant property owner had a duty to provide adequate security measures on the premises. While no property can ever be guaranteed safe and, unfortunately, not every violent act can be prevented, Florida law generally requires businesses to use reasonable care in preventing foreseeable acts and maintaining their properties in a safe condition. Often, the strength of negligent security claims depends on whether the business was aware of the danger or could have reasonably foreseen it.
  • The defendant breached their duty of care by failing to take adequate security measures.
  • Harm occurred on the property. The injured party must show that they sustained physical, psychological, financial, and/or other types of injuries as a result of the incident.
  • The harm was caused by the defendant’s failure to provide adequate security. While all negligence cases require the plaintiff to establish that their injuries were caused by the defendant breaching their duty of care, negligent security cases are more complex because a third-party criminal is the direct cause of the injury. Plaintiffs must show that the crime likely would not have occurred if proper security measures had been in place.

While negligent security cases require a thorough investigation and therefore may be time-consuming to litigate, they may yield substantial compensation for the victims of violent crimes. In addition, negligent security law benefits society by creating incentives for businesses to provide safer environments for those who visit their properties. It is because of cases like these that businesses have had to install security to protect visitors and customers, create card key systems to protect hotel guests, and install proper lighting to deter crime.

At Leighton Law, negligent security litigation is one of our top areas of expertise. With over 35 years of experience in this field, attorney John Leighton is the author of Litigating Premises Security Cases, a two-volume textbook used by lawyers nationwide on how to investigate and litigate cases involving negligent security. Mr. Leighton is the President of the National Crime Victim Bar Association and frequently lectures on the topic, and is consulted by lawyers across the country for assistance with negligent security cases. Visit https://leightonlaw.com/negligent-security-attorney/ to learn more, or call us today at 888.988.1774!

Article by:

John Leighton

A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite

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