Violent crime continues to be a serious problem in Southern California. Where almost everywhere else in the country has reported sharp declines in criminal activity, Los Angeles police recently reported a 26 percent uptick in violent crimes.
When violent crime occurs in a location where victims had a general expectation of safety, there may be grounds for civil litigation.
Our Los Angeles injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, recognize that while courts and lawmakers are generally reticent to hold third parties accountable for the criminal acts of others, there are situations in which the opportunity for crime would not necessarily have arisen but for the negligent security of the third party.
Because of the lasting, harmful impact violent crime can have on victims on their loved ones, it’s important to pursue accountability not just within the criminal courts, but in the civil system as well. This ensures that property owners, businesses and individuals will be more careful next time, and hopefully prevent similar trauma to someone else.
Understanding Negligent Security
Certain property owners, managers or businesses owe a duty of care to those who utilize the space.
This is called “premises liability.”
When a property owner fails to take reasonable steps to cure known hazards or to ensure the safety of lawful guests or residents, he or she may be taken to court for compensation. Premises liability encompasses many duties, ranging from cleaning a spill on a grocery aisle floor to making sure a rowdy nightclub has enough bouncers.
Negligent security refers to a failure by the property owner or manager to:
- Provide adequate security against foreseeable crimes
- Provide adequate inspections to guard against dangerous conditions
- Concealing a known criminal safety hazard
When a person is victimized by someone who took advantage of that breach in security, the victim can pursue damages against the property owner.
There is no bright-line rule for when an entity owes this duty and even what exactly the duty is. It’s quite subjective, though in our experience, these claims more commonly encompass:
- Inadequate lighting
- Poor parking lot surveillance
- Lack of hotel security
- Malfunctioning security systems (gates, cameras, alarms, etc.)
- Inattentive or poorly-trained security guards
- Improper surveillance
- Poorly-maintained locks or latches
- Lack of security guards
- Restriction of key duplication
These kinds of failures can lead to numerous types of victimization, including assault, battery, robbery, rape and even murder.
Most negligent security cases are filed against apartment complexes and certain businesses (i.e., nightclubs, restaurants, malls, etc.). However, they may also include:
- Garages and parking lots
- Nursing homes and assisted living residences
- Apartment complexes
- Gated communities
- College campuses and dorm rooms
Foreseeability in Negligent Security Cases
What the court deems “adequate security” may depend from case-to-case. What is often a substantial factor in these cases is past crimes.
In analyzing whether a defendant owed a duty to take action – the first element in proving negligence – the courts are going to look at whether the injury was foreseeable. This can be determined in one of two ways:
- Showing a particular third-party’s inclination toward a crime
- Showing the landowner knew or should have known about a condition on site that was likely to result in harm to a lawful guest
A dangerous condition may exist if it’s shown the property owner or property manager, in their experience, is aware of likely criminal conduct by third parties on site. To determine this, courts will look to see:
- If there is evidence of similar crimes in the area
- If there is a timeline proximity to the crimes (i.e., those that occurred recently)
- If there was a geographic proximity of prior crimes to the crime in question
Different types of property owners in different areas are going to be held to different standards. For example, an apartment complex with two random shootings in the last six months is going to be held to a higher standard of care in security than a similar operation in in a lower-crime area with no previous reports of violent acts.
In order to prove the crime was foreseeable and preventative action was warranted and reasonable, a plaintiff’s lawyer may need to hire a security expert to analyze all elements of the case and testify regarding their findings.
Although many intentional torts (crimes) result in criminal charges as well, the criminal justice system is concerned with holding the perpetrator accountable. While some criminal courts do order restitution for victims, it is not always sufficient to cover all losses. Further, prosecutors cannot pursue action against third parties that may be civilly responsible. That’s where our experienced legal team would take action.
Contact the injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, by calling 714-705-6701 or 909-859-0280. Serving the Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.
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