A Duty to Protect: How Safe Is the Security?
When a person is in their own home, they know what the security features are and can actively check to make sure they functioning properly and determine whether they actually provide additional safety. Outside of the home, however, assuming security measures are even present, it is not necessarily possible to verify their adequacy, which can easily become problematic if a person must trust that their safety is protected, such as during a hotel stay or attending music concert. If a person is injured due to negligent security in these types of situations, it is possible to file a lawsuit and recover for their suffering. When people are in spaces like the ones mentioned above, there is an expectation of security, and Florida law demands that all property owners, private and commercial, keep people on their land safe. Two recent news stories about the lack of effective security serve as examples of why this issue is such a crucial aspect of modern society. In the first story, the family of a 20-year-old man killed at an outdoor event in Fort Myers is suing the event organizers and security firm for wrongful death and argues the security was inadequate to provide crowd control and no one was checking for the presence of weapons. In the second story, a Florida man filed a class-action lawsuit against the security company ADT Security Services and claims the company misrepresented the safety and reliability of its systems because ADT’s signals are unencrypted and unauthenticated, which allows third parties to intercept and interfere with them. Given the pervasive presence and necessity in today’s world, an overview of a landowner’s liability for the safety of others, and what must be proven to hold one accountable for an injury, will follow below.
All landowners in Florida have a duty to protect residents, patrons or customers from experiencing foreseeable harm. This means if a person enters a nightclub, for example, and is assaulted, robbed or otherwise harmed, the injured person can hold the property owner responsible for not implementing adequate security measures to keep the person safe. Thus, the injured party is not limited to pursuing the perpetrator of the crime to recover for his/her injuries, assuming the identity of this person is known. In order to hold the property owner liable for injuries, the following must be proven in court:
- the owner had a legal duty to provide basic security for the premises. What constitutes basic security will vary based on the nature of the business, its location and the hours of operation;
- the owner breached this duty, which resulted in harm to the plaintiff. A breach could mean having inadequate locks, poorly trained security or non-functioning security cameras; and
- the plaintiff suffered great harm as a result. Any injury to a person’s body would qualify as harm.
Exception – Convenience Stores
While Florida law imposes a general obligation on property owners to keep others on their land safe, there is an exception carved out for convenience stores. Owners of these establishments will receive a presumption against liability for criminal acts that are committed on their property by third parties if they institute certain security measures. These security measures include:
- security cameras;
- drop safes with restricted access;
- a lit parking lot;
- a notice at the entrance that states the cash register contains $50 or less;
- windows that allow a clear and unobstructed view from outside the building and of the cash register area;
- limiting cash on hand after 11 p.m.; and
- a silent alarm, among other requirements.
If any of the security measures are absent or inadequate, the exemption from liability does not apply, so it should not be assumed that convenience store will not be responsible if something happens to a patron.
Consult an Lawyer
If you are the victim of bodily injury due to the failure of a property owner to provide proper security, you should talk to an lawyer to see what your rights are on recovering for your injuries. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado offers legal representation of clients who experience injury due to lapses in security. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.