Premises liability is a highly complex area of the law, and within premises liability law, negligent security cases provide some of the toughest issues. Responsible property owners take their duty of care seriously, but they cannot be expected to prevent 100% of all accidents that happen on their property. And that goes double when talking about visitors to their property being injured due to the illegal activity of other visitors and trespassers.
What can a property owner do if they have been accused of negligent security?
A quick review
First, a quick review of the topic. Premises liability is the legal theory that can hold property owners and possessors liable for damages by other people who were injured while on their property. Premises liability holds that property owners and possessors have a duty of reasonable care to their visitors, and so must repair safety hazards so as to minimize the risk of a foreseeable accident.
Negligent security cases fall under premises liability law. In these cases, a person who was injured by a third party — for instance, in a robbery — attempts to hold the property owner liable for their damages.
One of the main legal questions in these cases involves foreseeability. Was the injury forseeable? In the example of a person hurt in a robbery, the question is whether the property owner had reason to know that a robbery was likely to take place, and that if so, a visitor might be injured. If the court finds that the owner knew violent robberies were frequent in the area and did nothing to protect their visitors, it might decide the owner was negligent.
The defenses to these cases involve showing that some other party was more responsible than the owner.
- Assumption of the risk: In some cases, owners argue that the injured party assumed the risk to themselves by entering an unsafe area.
- Criminal responsibility: In cases such as the robbery example above, owners can sometimes successfully argue that it was the criminal who bears the bulk of the responsibility for the injury. In so doing, the owners are able to reduce their own liability.
- Employer negligence: In some cases, the property own can argue that the injured party’s employer bears liability: For instance, if the employer ordered the employee to enter a known dangerous area.
These cases are highly complex, but with the help of an experienced attorney, owners can protect their rights.