You are enjoying a special vacation with your family, you come home late from work to your apartment complex parking lot, you walk across the supermarket lot pushing a shopping cart towards your car. Suddenly, out of the shadows, a person confronts you, maybe holds a gun or knife to you and demands your money and other valuables. Although you cooperate, you are struck in the face, knocked down and stomped or worse.
In Pennsylvania, business owners owe a duty of care to their customers to protect against criminal activities occurring on their properties under certain circumstances. In Pennsylvania, property owners must take reasonable precautions against foreseeable dangers, even if caused by a criminal act of a third party. If property owners do not do everything in their power to keep the property free from dangerous conditions while also ensuring the premises are sufficiently secure to keep visitors safe from harm, they may be held liable.
Examples of inadequate security include:
- Shopping mall confrontations and strong-arm robberies;
- Parking garage attacks;
- Nightclub assaults;
- ATM robberies;
- Hotel room break-ins; and
- Apartment complex parking lot assaults
In many of these vicious attacks, adequate implementation of security measures, proper use of security personnel and devices such as cameras were lacking. Inadequate lighting, failing to hire or properly train security guards and bouncers, broken door locks and gates have all led to terrible attacks upon innocent people.
In addition to the facts of the attack or assault itself, factors which can influence the merits of an inadequate security case include (i) the type of premises involved and how that property was being used at the time of the crime; (ii) the type and amount of criminal activity known to normally occur on or around the premises; (iii) the history or pattern of similar crimes at the premises; (iv) the level of security advertised or promised by the property owner or business proprietor; and, (v) the need for security under the circumstances and the amount of resources committed to meeting such security requirements relative to the size and profitability of the business.
An inadequate security case is a failure to provide reasonable security measures to protect from foreseeable harm to persons whom the property owner owes a legal duty to provide reasonably safe premises. Many such failures are caused by the property owner’s failing to perform a security assessment or risk analysis based upon the type of business or location of the property.
If a crime victim is injured or killed because of one of these criminal acts, an immediate investigation should be conducted by an experienced inadequate security lawyer to determine whether adequate security measures were in place, whether locks, security cameras or other safety equipment functioned properly, and whether personnel responsible for security performed their jobs in a prudent manner. In addition to the property owner, other potentially responsible parties may be property management companies, event organizers and promoters, vendors paid to install security equipment and any security company which provided security guards to the property where the attack occurred.
Sometimes the danger can come from within the business itself such as when potentially dangerous employees or those with known propensities for violence were inappropriately hired to deal with members of the public or where building codes, fire codes or occupancy codes were disregarded or not enforced.
Further, there are times where improperly trained or over-zealous security guards cause injuries to business patrons through the use of excessive force. The law in Pennsylvania and other states requires privately employed guards, security officers and loss prevention personnel to refrain from using any physical force if other effective means of adequately addressing the situation can be used. Any use of force must always be justified and when necessary, privately employed security personnel may only use that amount of force which is reasonable under the circumstances. Any degree of force which is greater than that which was necessary and reasonable under the circumstances is excessive and therefore, unlawful.
Our experienced inadequate security lawyers will fully investigate the incident; determine what, if any protective safety measures were implemented and evaluate the risk that a particular business was facing based upon local crime statistics maintained by the local police and other crime fighting agencies.