Every single day in America someone falls victim to the violent criminal actions of others. It can happen anywhere, to anyone and most of the time the violent offender cannot provide any restitution to their victims. Unfortunately, most of the time the victims are left to pick up the pieces and left completely responsible for their medical bills, expenses and other losses; however, in certain limited circumstances a property owner can be held responsible for the criminal acts of another which occur on his property.
Property owners are required to provide a safe and secure premises when their property is open to use by the public. If there is inadequate security, and someone receives an injury or gets assaulted due to a lack of security, the injured party may be able to take legal action against the property owner in what is referred to as a premises liability lawsuit.
In Mississippi, if a victim of crime can show (1) a duty owed to him; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) damages; and (4) a causal connection between the breach and the damages, such that the breach is the proximate cause of the; they may be able to recover some if not all of their damages from the property owner.
The first step is to determine the status of the injured party. An “invitee” is someone who enters the premises of another to the express or implied invitation of the owner or occupant for their mutual advantage. A “licensee” is someone who enters the property of another for his own convenience, pleasure or benefit pursuant to the license or implied permission of the owner. A “trespasser” is one who enters another’s property for his own purposes, pleasure or convenience without permission or inducement. Examples of business invitees are customers of a business or guests at your home and this standard is the most common in negligent security cases.
The next step is duty. Landowners or managers owe a duty to invitees to exercise reasonable care to keep the business premises in a “reasonably safe condition.” In addition, they must employ reasonable care to protect an invitee from “reasonably foreseeable injuries at the hands of another.” An assault on the premises is “reasonably foreseeable” if the defendant had either: (1) “actual or constructive knowledge of the assailant’s violent nature,” or (2) “actual or constructive knowledge (that) an atmosphere of violence existed on the premises.” In assessing “atmosphere of violence,” relevant factors include “the overall pattern of criminal activity prior to the event in question that occurred in the general vicinity of the defendant’s business premises” and “the frequency of criminal activity on the premises.”
Next, there must be a breach of this duty. Examples sometimes include:
- Lack of security guards
- Negligent security guards
- Failure to install security cameras
- Failure to monitor security cameras
- Inadequate parking surveillance
There may be other factors leading up to the unsafe conditions that led to an injury, but negligent security law addresses only those unsafe conditions that made the attacks by a third party possible or easier to occur. A premises liability action must be able to prove that the property manager should have foreseen the possibility of such an attack due to similar prior crimes in the neighborhood.
This foreseeability it a crucial factor. If a parking garage is located in a part of town where other, violent attacks have been taking place, it behooves the property owner to take steps to secure the building from such attack. Landlords and property owners owe a duty of care to maintain reasonable safe conditions. If there has been a pattern of criminal activity in the neighborhood, it is the property owner’s responsibility to make sure that their property is kept as safe as possible so that no harm comes to visitors or tenants.
If you have been injured due to inadequate security on public or private property, we invite you to contact Taylor Jones Taylor to learn more about our personal injury legal services. You may contact us to set up a no-obligation consultation at one of our offices in Southaven, Olive Branch or Hernando, Mississippi.