Assault on Business or Landlord Property

The concept of property owner responsibility for criminal attacks or assault on business or landlord property is often a bit puzzling to people at first. After all, how is it fair to hold responsible anyone but the person who launched the attack?

It all goes back to a property owner’s obligation to make their premises reasonably safe, particularly when the site is frequently used by the public. This responsibility goes beyond just cleaning up slippery floors or repairing broken stairs. It also means taking appropriate security measures so that invitees on site are not at an unreasonable risk for being victimized by a criminal attack.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale premises liability lawyers hold property owners accountable for negligent security that contributes to cases of robbery, rape, assault or battery. Both commercial and residential land owners have been successfully sued on claims of negligent security, though their duty of care usually differs from each other. For example, the owner of a nightclub is going to have a different duty of care than the owner of an apartment complex.

But why do we pursue claims against the owner or possessor of the property rather than the perpetrator of the violent act? Well firstly, the two claims aren’t mutually exclusive. You can actually sue both for your injuries. However, there are two main reasons to pursue the property owner:

  1. It is often easier to locate the owner/ possessor of the property than it is a stranger who carried out the attack.
  2. The owner/ possessor of the property is more likely to be carrying insurance to cover such a claim, which means you have a much better shot at collecting damages.

Our Fort Lauderdale attorneys understand that while property owners probably did not intend to open the door to violent acts against guests or residents, failure to make sure there was adequate security can make such occurrences practically inevitable.

Some examples of inadequate security that can lead to third-party attacks include:

  • Poor lighting;
  • Locks that are weak or broken;
  • Security guards who are poorly trained or non-existent;
  • Poor management policies;
  • Failing to restrict access to the property.
  • Malfunctioning gates.
  • Lack of security cameras or alarms.
  • Failure to screen entrants for weapons or other dangerous instruments.
  • Failure to run criminal background checks on tenants or employees.

Prevailing in these cases usually involves showing the crime was in some way foreseeable by the defendant property owner.

Foreseeability of Criminal Assaults

By-and-large, cases of inadequate security are going to be brought against either a commercial property owner or residential landlord (usually of an apartment or condo complex).

Some examples of where our Fort Lauderdale lawyers often see third-party assaults:

  • Hotels
  • Malls
  • Parking lots
  • ATMs
  • Malls
  • College dormitories
  • Nightclubs
  • Theme parks
  • Grocery stores

It is generally held by Florida courts that those who possess or own property have a responsibility to protect those on site from unreasonable danger. Usually, it’s not possible to hold someone liable for the intentional or negligent acts of another. However, cases of assault on business or landlord property are the exception because the claim is that no harm would have befallen plaintiff had it not been for the property owner’s failure to protect plaintiff from that harm.

In order to succeed here, plaintiffs have to show the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the underlying danger. When we ask whether an assault or attack was foreseeable, we are asking not whether the owner knew that particular crime was going to occur, but whether he or she should have known it was likely to occur based on the totality of the circumstances.

Defendants in these cases will try to assert that the crime at issue was random and that only the person who committed the offense is liable. Perhaps they may even assert that the crime victim shared some part of responsibility.

In order to prove that the crime could have been anticipated by the property owner, courts in Florida will weigh:

  • Evidence of other crimes in the area;
  • How recently those other crimes occurred;
  • How physically close were those acts to the one at issue.

None of this means the property owner had to know this specific assault or specific crime was going to occur. Rather, it means there was a reason for the owner to suspect this type of crime would occur, and therefore had a duty to mitigate or eliminate that risk with appropriate security measures.

If you have been injured in an assault on business or landlord property in Fort Lauderdale, our experienced injury lawyers can help.

Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.

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