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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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What Makes a Violent Crime Foreseeable in a Negligent Security Case?

When a violent crime occurs at a commercial property such as a hotel, apartment complex, shopping center, or office building, the victim of the crime may consider bringing a negligent security claim against the owner or manager of the premises.

Negligent security, a subcategory of premises liability law, is based on the idea that property owners are in a better position than visitors to know about any potential dangers, such as the risk that robberies, assaults (including sexual assaults), and other violent crimes could take place on the property. Therefore, the property owners/managers should take reasonable steps to secure the premises and keep customers, guests, residents, and other invitees safe from foreseeable violent crimes.

Establishing a negligent security case is similar to other negligence cases, but with the additional complicating factor of third-party involvement. In general, plaintiffs must demonstrate that:

  • The defendant property owner (or manager) had a duty to provide adequate security on the premises, such as by installing proper lighting, cameras, security guards or alarms;
  • The defendant breached that duty; and
  • The plaintiff suffered actual damages from the crime, and this harm would likely not have occurred if the defendant had fulfilled their duty to implement proper security measures.

Property owners are not expected to prevent all possible crimes that may occur on their properties—they are only required to take reasonable steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable criminal attacks. The success of the plaintiff’s claim in negligent security cases often hinges on the foreseeability of the crime in question.

Establishing foreseeability in a negligent security case

When determining whether it was reasonably foreseeable that a violent crime would occur on a property, there are many factors that can come into play to determine whether such a crime was foreseeable.  It may be sufficient to show that it is located in a high-crime area, or even that other, non-violent crimes had previously been committed on the property. The defendant property owner or manager need not have been aware of the risk of that exact type of crime occurring, only something reasonably similar. Courts may consider a variety of factors, such as:

  • The history of similar violent acts on the property. As noted, courts generally draw a distinction between violent and non-violent acts; the nature and extent of prior crimes are factors to be considered and may well be probative of foreseeability even if they are not violent.
  • The amount of time that has passed between prior criminal acts and the crime in question.
  • The crime pattern in the area. Businesses in high-crime areas, or in areas that are currently being targeted by violent criminals, will have a heightened duty to implement appropriate security measures on their properties.
  • The nature of the industry/property, and whether there were other factors to suggest hat a crime was reasonably foreseeable.
  • Whether the property owner/manager has recognized the need for security but failed to act appropriately.

Establishing a negligent security claim involves a variety of fact-specific inquiries, and requires a thorough investigation and experienced legal counsel. At Leighton Law, we are experts in negligent security litigation. With more than 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. As the Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America/American Association for Justice Inadequate Security Litigation Group, Mr. Leighton is very familiar with what it takes to investigate, develop and try negligent security and violent crime cases.  Leighton Law’s Max Panoff plays a leadership role in the National Crime Victim Bar Association.  The Leighton Law team knows security, violent crime and sex abuse cases.  They are skilled in working with crime victims and their families.  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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