What Is the Responsibility of Property Owners to Provide Adequate Security?
With all of the threats facing the world today, both homegrown and foreign, concerns about the effectiveness and adequacy of security provided by the government and private companies are on the minds of everyone. Feeling secure when out in public and frequenting businesses is crucial to a society’s ability to function freely, and now that it seems this security is uncertain, it is worth looking at what responsibility a business has for injuries that occurred due to negligent security. In light of the recent tragedy at a nightclub in Orlando, security experts are pushing for higher screening standards for those hired as armed guards. A recent article in the Orlando Sentinel looked at deficiencies in the current screening system that allows security companies to pass candidates on the basis of a single written psychological true/false test, without any face-to-face interview with a psychologist. In addition to more rigorous psychological screening, security experts would like access to the FBI background checks to enhance the information companies can see about applicants. Certainly it is important to vet armed security guards to ensure they are mentally stable for job, but before you get to that question, it is worth asking – what is a property owner’s general duty to provide security at all?
Duty of Business Owners
Generally, property owners are not responsible for the acts of third parties unless there is a special relationship between the injured person and the property owner. Florida law imposes a particular duty on business owners, who invite members of the public onto their property, to keep the premises in a safe condition and to warn visitors or any known or reasonably discoverable dangers. These discoverable dangers include the risk of attack, especially if the business is located in a high crime area or has a history of problems with crime or violence. In these situations, Florida law requires property owners to take precautions to protect customers, including the installation of security measures. Determining whether the risk of an attack was foreseeable, or if the security measures taken by a business were adequate, is a fact-based analysis that varies by case. However, some easy methods a business can take to increase security include: lighting dark and/or isolated parking lots, installing fencing, secure locks and security cameras to monitor the premises, particularly access points. Inadequate security, or the absence of security generally, can open business owners to liability if a customer is injured as a result.
Basis of a Premises Liability Claim
The legal basis of a premise liability claim for negligent security is negligence law. Thus, in a negligent security case, a plaintiff would need to show:
- the business owner owed the injured party a duty of care to keep the premises safe and secure;
- the business owner failed to install effective or adequate security measures to protect customers;
- this failure to secure the premises led to the plaintiff’s injury; and
- the plaintiff was injured as a result of insufficient security.
Talk to a Lawyer
If you suffered injuries due to criminal acts committed on a business’s property, talk to a lawyer to determine the potential liability of the business owner before assuming there is no legal recourse. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles a variety of negligent security claims and can advise on the strength of your case. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.