Property owners in Florida have a legal responsibility to take reasonable measures to keep visitors safe. One of the ways they do that is by providing sufficient security. If someone is injured on another’s property due to negligent security or inadequate security, there may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale negligent security lawyers know that negligent security is a form of premises liability. It stems from a property owner’s failure to keep lawful entrants and visitors protected from an unreasonable risk of harm – namely, a violent criminal attack committed by someone else.
- Commercial property owners (Hotels, theme parks, stores, nightclubs, hospitals, sports arenas, theaters, etc.)
- Government agencies (schools, city parks, parking lots/ garages, etc.)
- Property managers
- Security firms
These cases typically arise when someone is mugged, sexually assaulted, shot or otherwise harmed because the property lacked an appropriate level of security.
What exactly was an adequate level? That is really going to depend on so many different factors, including the type of business and whether other similar crimes had occurred there in the past. These factors go directly to the question of foreseeability. Plaintiffs have to be able to show the property owner could have reasonably foreseen the risk of a third-party attack, and yet failed to do anything to protect guests or residents from it.
Of course, trying to prove that a property owner knew or should have known about the potential for third-party crime can be a major legal hurdle. These kinds of challenging cases should only be entrusted to an experienced injury attorney.Liability for Crimes Committed by Third Persons
Generally, a business or person doesn’t have a legal duty to control the conduct of someone else. Courts in Florida are generally reticent to impose liability on one person for the acts of another. Exceptions arise when there is a duty to protect an unknown plaintiff from the conduct of a third party that could arise if defendant is in actual or constructive control of either the instrumentality of the harm or the premises on which the tort is committed or the person who committed the tort.
Vicarious liability can be asserted in cases of employer-employee relationships or against the owner of dangerous instrumentality.
Vicarious liability for the acts of employees predicated on the legal theory of respondeat superior, which is Latin for, “Let the master answer.” This is the legal theory that allows people to assert that a business is liable for the negligent actions of its employees – even if the business wasn’t directly negligent in any way.
So if an employee assaults or attacks a patron while the worker is acting in the course and scope of employment, the company could be liable for this action, even though the company couldn’t have anticipated the incident.
One can also assert vicarious liability against the owner of a dangerous instrumentality, such as a car.
And finally, there is premises liability for third-party criminal attacks. Liability for negligent security is predicated on this exception, where defendant had control of a property on which the tort was committed, had a duty to plaintiff and breached that duty by failing to ensure proper security.Elements of Negligent Security Claim
In order to prove negligent security, the injured party (i.e., the plaintiff), needs to be able to show the responsible party (i.e., the defendant) did not act with reasonable care – as he/ she was required to do – and as a result, caused harm to plaintiff. Negligent security claims can arise from third-party assaults on defendant’s property when the potential for a criminal attack was foreseeable.
So the elements of a negligent security claim are:
- Defendant/ property owner owed a legal duty of care to provide adequate security.
- Defendant failed to take reasonable care to provide adequate security.
- Plaintiff suffered compensable injuries as a result of defendant’s failure.
Determining what is the “right” level of security is not a straightforward task because it will depend on the type of operation and previous crimes on site and in the area, including homicide, rape, robbery, battery, kidnapping and theft. Another element to be taken into consideration are industry standards.
For example, hospital nursery standards for security are governed by the Joint Commission with the goal of ensuring newborns and preemies are safe and secure and only leave with the appropriate family.
But those security standards are going to be different than those for nightclubs. Although there are some industry-wide standards and building codes that are applicable, these standards may also be local. For example, the City of Miami issued a “best practices” for nightclubs and other entertainment venues to reduce the risk of crime. That includes sound mitigation, increased security patrols and working with code enforcement to reduce on-site dangers.
Some examples of appropriate security might include:
- Proper lighting
- Trained/ screened security guards
- Working locks
- Functional alarms
- Working surveillance cameras
- Adequate fences/ fencing
- A uniform emergency response/ evacuation plan
Failure to take these measures in instances where it is warranted can be grounds for a negligent security claim.
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.