Mass Shootings and Liability: Negligent Security or Unforeseeable Criminal Attack?
Following two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton earlier this month, Florida’s lawyers and residents alike ponder the question of liability and negligent security in the deadly attacks that sent shock waves through America.
ABC News reports that there have been at least 17 deadly mass shootings across the country so far in 2019. According to a lengthy analysis by Everytown Research in 2017, there were at least 173 mass shootings in the U.S. between 2009 and 2017.
Mass shootings, gun safety, liability, and the foreseeability of these attacks have become some of the most talked-about topics in our country in recent years. But has the increasing number of mass shootings changed the legal standard of “adequate security” for businesses and properties where crowds of people commonly gather?
Negligent security in mass shootings
In view of the most recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, which occurred in the span of 14 hours and killed a total of 32 people, it is important to consider the liability and foreseeability elements of these attacks.
In other words, do businesses and properties across the U.S. beef up security efforts to prevent these criminal acts? And the second question is when such a tragedy happens, do victims and families of victims have a right to sue the owner or occupier of a property where the shooting occurs?
By federal and state law, property and business owners have a legal duty to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe and secure from anticipated hazards, including foreseeable criminal attacks (i.e., fights, stabbings, sexual assaults, and mass shootings).
In fact, victims and families of people killed in mass shootings have sought accountability from property and business owners in the past. In August 2018, CBS News reported that a Florida law firm filed a lawsuit alleging that negligent security contributed to the Jacksonville Landing shooting, which claimed the lives of three people and injured 11.
Miami is vulnerable to mass shootings
The liability aspect of mass shooting cases has been a widely discussed topic by every respected attorney specializing in premises liability law in the state of Florida, which has seen some of the most disturbing mass shootings in recent years.
Fact: In February 2018, 17 were killed and 17 others injured in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Following the massacre of high school students, Miami-Dade governments decided to place police officers in all local primary and secondary public schools.
Miami is home to many large and vulnerable spaces like beaches, airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues, which pose security risks in the event of mass shootings. According to the Miami Herald, more than 16.5 million overnight visitors came to Miami in 2018.
In February 2020, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens will be hosting Super Bowl LIV.
The issue of liability in mass shooting cases
Typically, the shooter is the only party held liable in a mass shooting case, while establishing liability against anyone other than the perpetrator can be tough. The problem is, in most cases, it is not possible for victims and their families in wrongful death cases to recover substantial compensation from the shooter – or any compensation for that matter.
However, there have been limited cases where liability was established against a third party, but only so long as the third party violated the standard of care and failed to prevent the “foreseeable” attack. These instances include a property or business owner who:
- Fails to provide adequate security measures;
- Does not hire appropriate guards and staff;
- Fails to establish a safety plan in the event of a shooting;
- Does not train employees on the policies regarding the use of force, contacting the police, and other emergency protocols; and
- Fails to perform a background check to protect both employees and customers.
Other third parties who can be held liable in mass shootings include parties who had prior knowledge of the attack, those who assist the perpetrator in any way, and parties who illegally sell or make available to the shooter a weapon or ammunition.
Victims of mass shootings and their families are forced to confront unbearable expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, loss of employment, loss of partnership and consortium, and many other damages and losses on top of coping with grief.
If you believe that negligent security has played a role in causing or contributing to your injury or the death of your family member, do not hesitate to discuss the issue of liability with our Miami negligent security lawyer from Pita Weber & Del Prado. Get a free consultation by calling at 305-670-2889.