Negligent security provided by property owners is all too common and can cause significant injuries to innocent and unsuspecting people.
In Florida, property owners and occupiers must exercise reasonable care to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Instances of negligent security arise when a property owner or occupier fails to provide adequate security to protect their customers, visitors, or guests from the foreseeable criminal activity of a third-party. Victims are often targeted in or around gas stations, shopping centers, banks, bars, hotels, ATMs, night clubs, and nursing homes. Unfortunately, the most common crimes associated with this type of negligence are battery, rape, robbery, and murder.
The key question for courts to determine in negligent security cases is whether the criminal attack or conduct was reasonably foreseeable. Some examples of situations where courts have found foreseeability are places with:
- A history of criminal activity;
- Poor lighting;
- Faulty door or window locks;
- Inadequate security personnel; or
- Overgrown bushes or hedges.
In the case of commercial property, sometimes the company itself provides proof of its own negligence. Owners of commercial establishments who invite customers on to their property should regularly obtain and evaluate criminal grids. Criminal grids, both in state and federal law enforcement, provide information about criminal activities in the vicinity:
- Does the area have a significant history of violent crime?
- What is the location of each act of criminal activity in relation to the establishment?
- What is the history of crime immediately surrounding the establishment?
- What are the area statistics of calls to law enforcement?
- Do the statistics illustrate a reasonable need for employment of a professional security company?
- Has the property’s security features been reasonably maintained?
- Has the property owner saved money, rather than be alert to security and customer safety?
- Did the property owner try to save money by hiring improperly trained security personnel?
The investigation and pursuit of negligent security cases requires experience and special knowledge; since the cases often involve elements akin to both criminal and civil law.
The investigation of a negligent security case involves the accumulation of a large amount of data and documents, including:
- Crime grids;
- Surveillance video;
- Professional photographs of the area;
- Police reports;
- Defendant incident reports;
- History of prior insurance claims;
- Maintenance records related to lighting, gates, locks, and other physical security features;
- Code enforcement records;
- Security surveys;
- Defendant’s policies and procedures manuals;
- Any documents related to security measures taken or recommended.
In negligent security cases, any attorney litigating them must have a firm understanding of the statutory duties imposed on property owners, the case law obligations and the expected defenses used to argue the case.
That is why Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA lawyers frequently work with law enforcement, private investigators, and security experts to ensure our clients get the successful results they deserve. Many of our attorneys are former prosecutors very familiar with the intricacies of handling cases involving complex and/or violent crimes.