Business owners have a responsibility to protect their employees and the patrons of their businesses from foreseeable crimes committed on the business property. If their safety measures fail, they may be held civilly liable in a personal injury lawsuit for negligent security.Security Suits in the Past
Historically, businesses did not have a presumed duty to protect their workers or customers from accidents. The theory was that accidents can happen anywhere, and a business cannot guarantee that they will not—lightning may strike a customer as he walks in the door of a business. There were, however, exceptions for railroads and hotels. Because they shelter and transport people, railroads and hotels could be held liable for accidents that befell their customers. They had a special duty to protect the customers’ safety.
Then, in the 1970s, the courts began to expand a business owner’s responsibilities. For example, courts began to find that owners and managers of apartment buildings sometimes had a duty to protect the residents and guests from being assaulted in the hallways. If the building was located in a high-crime area, the landlord should have known about the danger and should have taken protective measures.Current Law
Today, to bring a negligent security lawsuit, the injured party—including guests, customers, and employees—must show that:
- The business where the attack occurred owed a duty of care to the victim;
- The business breached its duty of care;
- The victim was harmed; and
- The breach caused that harm.
Courts determine the existence of a business’s duty by using a balancing test, comparing the foreseeability of the harm to the burden of the duty to be imposed. In other words, the court will weigh the likelihood that injury will occur against how burdensome it would be for the business to take the security measures necessary to prevent the injury. For example, a court may balance the likelihood of crime on a particular business’s property against the burden of the cost of hiring security guards or installing surveillance cameras.
The foreseeability and preventability of the harm are essential to the case, because the injury must have been caused by the business owner’s irresponsible or negligent behavior. There must have been unsafe conditions that led to the attack, and the owner must have known that another person might take advantage of the lack of security and attack another person on the property. If there was no way that the business owner could have foreseen or prevented an attack, the business cannot be held liable for the injury.
Often, negligent security claims are brought against employers who did not take sufficient security measures to protect their employees from third-party attacks. Workers injured due to negligent security may be entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits, but such benefits are often insufficient in meeting the injured employee’s needs.
No employee should have to work in fear of being attacked by a third party, and no customer should have to fear for his or her safety while patronizing a business. If you have been injured by a criminal attack on the premises of your workplace, please contact the passionate San Jose workplace injury attorneys at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free consultation today at (408) 289-1417.Sources