A Michigan negligent security lawsuit lawyer can help if you were the victim of a criminal attack at a business property. These cases can result in large settlements for an injured victim.
When you stay at a hotel or walk in the parking lot of a local business or apartment complex, you should not worry about being the victim of an assault or violent crime because of negligent security.
You should assume the business owner has taken reasonable steps to protect you.
In many situations, a business owner has a legal duty to protect customers, guests, and residents from violence and criminal activity. This often means taking necessary security measures to provide a safe place to live and visit.
A business owner that neglects this duty can be held liable in a civil lawsuit harm caused by an attack.
Negligent security case law varies from state to state. In general, any person injured as a result of inadequate security typically must be able to show the business could have prevented the violent crime from taking place.
Michigan courts also require that the business knew of previous crimes on the premises and thus, the violence was foreseeable and preventable.
It can be difficult and complicated to file this type of premises liability lawsuit.
It is extremely important to hire an experienced negligent security attorney to help you to seek the financial compensation you deserve.
- What is a negligent security lawsuit?
- When are property owners responsible?
- What makes a criminal act foreseeable?
- What are reasonable steps to protect visitors from crimes?
- When is a criminal act foreseeable?
- What are the elements of a negligent security lawsuit?
What is a Negligent Security Lawsuit?
Negligent security is a legal term used to refer to causes of action that arise when a person suffers injuries on another party’s property as a result in inadequate security.
Sometimes these types of lawsuits are referred to as inadequate security claims or premises security claims.
Negligent security cases are one type of “premises liability” case, which is a particular area of personal injury law.
Premises liability states that property owners have a legal duty to prevent or warn of any unreasonable hazards to a person lawfully on the property. This can include criminal attacks, robberies, and rapes on a property.
Many premises liability lawsuits involve an accident where a person on the property gets hurt, such as a slip and fall incident. While these types of premises liability claims are distinct from negligent security cases, both involve claims of negligence on the part of the property owner.
In both types of premises liability claims, the injured party is suing the property owner for compensation resulting from injuries suffered as a result of the property owner’s negligence.
To be clear, a negligent security claim is not a lawsuit against the criminal, such as a mugger or a person charged with assault. Rather it is a third-party claim against the property owner where the crime occurred.
The case attempts to hold the property owner accountable for failing to prevent the criminal act and your injuries.
Liability for Negligent Security: When are Property Owners Responsible?
In general, as we explained, a property owner has a duty to prevent a visitor on the property from sustaining injuries as a result of an unreasonable risk or danger. Yet this duty does not automatically mean that a property owner must protect visitors from a risk of a criminal act.
Simply put, some criminal attacks are random and unpredictable. In some states, a business owner is not automatically liable because someone is attacked on their property.
There are many circumstances where this duty does apply. For example, hotel or motel owners are often liable in negligent security cases. Apartment complexes are also frequent defendants in these lawsuits for failing to tell residents of criminal activity in the area.
What Makes a Criminal Act Foreseeable?
A criminal act can be foreseeable if there were previous incidents on the property. This could be if a similar crime has happened in the past—either on the business owner’s property or even in the area. It can also be foreseeable if others had previously expressed safety concerns.
In many lawsuits, an experienced negligent security lawyer will obtain police reports and complaints about criminal activity in the area preceding your attack. Also, news stories and reports of crimes provide a basis for establishing the predictability of an attack.
When there is a basis for safety concerns, the property owner must take reasonable steps to protect guests and visitor lawfully on the property. When they fail to do so, they can be sued in a civil lawsuit for recoverable damages.
What are Reasonable Steps to Protect Visitors from Crimes?
When a property owner has taken steps to prevent a crime from happening, it may not be liable in a negligent or inadequate security lawsuit. The following are examples of reasonable steps that property owners can take to protect avoid liability:
- Installing adequate lighting or repairing broken lighting in outdoor walkways and in outdoor parking lots to deter criminal activity;
- Installing locks, safety gates, or other security hardware on common area doors and door wall entries to protect a tenant or guest;
- Placing security cameras and surveillance on the premises;
- Putting alarm systems in place for threatened victims to set off if in fear of an imminent attack, especially in parking garages and on college campuses;
- Hiring security guards at main entrances and to patrol the area;
- Having security guards escort customers and employees out to their cars after dark;
- Providing staff training in adequate security and safety; and
- Calling the police if a potential assault and battery seems likely, like a bar fight that may spill over into the parking lot.
An experienced Michigan inadequate security attorney can review the facts of your case and determine whether you have a case for seeking compensation from the property owner.
Our law firm hires security expert witnesses to determine if a crime was foreseeable based on the factors of your case.
The expert also determines if appropriate measures were taken for your safety, and if additional measures should have been taken to prevent your injury.
When is a Criminal Act Foreseeable?
Depending upon the state where the criminal act occurred, a court will typically apply one of three different tests to determine whether the criminal activity was foreseeable:
Totality of the circumstances test: This is among the most widely used tests, and courts look at the totality of the circumstances in the situation to determine whether the crime was foreseeable. In looking at the totality of the circumstances, the court will look to see whether any prior criminal acts had occurred on the property. It will also evaluate whether other criminal activity previously occurred in the neighborhood and whether the property owner took any steps to protect customers from criminal activity. This could include installing adequate lighting or hiring a security guard.
Prior criminal incidents test: Some states apply a test that says a property owner can only be liable for injuries in a negligent security claim if the property owner knew or should have known that criminal activity had occurred previously on the business premises. This test is much narrower than the totality of the circumstances test. In states that use this test, it can be more difficult for a plaintiff to win a negligent security lawsuit.
Imminent harm test: In certain states, foreseeability is not enough for a property owner to be liable in a negligent security case. Instead, a property owner must know that a customer is in imminent risk of harm and has a duty to warn the customer or to call 911. If a property owner does not respond to an imminent risk of harm, then that property owner can be liable for injuries caused by a criminal act.
A majority of states, as we said, rely on the “totality of the circumstances” test. For example, in Michigan, the Michigan Supreme Court has clarified that the totality of the circumstances test is the appropriate test for determining liability in a negligent or inadequate security case.
Common Places Where Inadequate Security Leads to Criminal Acts
Businesses that are often liable in negligent security cases may include but are not limited to:
- Retail stores
- Grocery stores
- Apartment complexes
- Gas stations
- College campuses, including dormitories
- Movie theaters
- Cruise ships
- Sports stadiums
- Office buildings
Hotels, motels, and resorts are commonly sued in negligent security cases. Not only can parking lots be places where assaults and muggings occur, but hotel and resort guests can also be subject to break-ins and assaults when hotels fail to install effective locks on windows and doors.
Types of Criminal Acts in Negligent Security Claims
Unfortunately, crimes occur much too often at hotels and resorts, as well as at other businesses.
When a criminal act occurred and the premises had inadequate security, the business owner may be responsible. Common types of criminal acts that might give rise to a negligent security lawsuit include but are not limited to when a:
- Criminal breaks into a hotel room and sexually assaults a hotel guest;
- Customer is mugged in a dimly lit mall parking lot;
- Resident of an apartment building is mugged or sexually assaulted while walking from her car into the apartment building;
- Customer at a restaurant is attacked in a parking lot or parking garage;
- Hotel guest is robbed by an intruder; or
- Nightclub or bar customer is attacked while entering or exiting the establishment.
What are the Elements of a Michigan Negligent Security Lawsuit?
Each state has its own premises liability laws, and specific case law concerning negligent security. In general, however, to win a negligent security lawsuit a plaintiff will typically need to prove the following elements:
- Property owner owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- Property owner knew or should have known about the risk of criminal activity and harm to customers or other guests on the property;
- Property owner failed to take steps to prevent criminal activity by installing adequate security measures; and
- Plaintiff suffered harm in a criminal act on the property where there was inadequate security.
In terms of a property owner owing a duty of care to the plaintiff, this element is easier to establish when the plaintiff was a customer of a retail establishment or a paying guest at a hotel or resort where the crime occurred.
Do Property Owners Have a Duty to Protect Everyone on the Premises?
Premises liability law varies from state to state, and different types of people on properties are owed different levels of care under specific state laws. Many states distinguish among the following categories of people who might be on property:
• Invitees: This category of person is owed the highest level of care, and it is someone who is invited onto the property for business purposes. An invitee does not have to actually do any business in order to be owed a high level of care, but instead is someone who is on the property for business-related reasons. Examples of invitees include customers, tenants, contractors, and business partners.
• Licensees: This is a category of person who is still owed a duty of care, but is generally owed less of a duty of care than an invitee. A licensee is someone who is still on the property lawfully, but is not on the property for any type of business purpose. Examples of an invitee include a family member, a friend, or a neighbor visiting your home for social purposes.
• Trespassers: This is a category of person who is not on the property lawfully and is owed the lowest duty of care.
Some states do not distinguish between an invitee and a licensee, but hold anyone on the property lawfully is owed the highest duty of care. For trespassers, some states say that property owners owe no duty at all to trespassers, while other states impose obligations even for them.
Under Michigan law, for example, invitees are owed a higher duty of care than licensees. Trespassers may be owed some limited duty of care if a property owner knows the trespasser is on the property. Other states have similar laws.
Can I also Sue the Security Company?
There are cases in which the property owner hired a security company to protect tenants and guests on a property, but an attack still occurred. In those cases, the property owner will likely argue that it did take reasonable steps to prevent your injury, but the security company was the negligent party. In these cases, you can also sue the security company for negligence.
How Much can I Sue for in a Case?
There is no limit to the amount you can sue for in a premises liability case. There are two types of damages you can claim in most personal injury lawsuits. These are known as economic and non-economic damages and you can get a combination of both types.
Non-economic damages are compensation for physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, and psychological trauma. They also include fright and shock, fear, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Economic losses are for financial losses suffered from the incident. Examples include loss of income, medical expenses, therapy treatment, and other expenses.
For cases involving a death, the surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases demand settlements for the pain and suffering from the time of the attack until the death, as well as for the loss of the companionship of the family for the loved one.
Examples of Negligent Security Lawsuits and Verdicts
There are many examples of criminal acts followed by negligent security claims at businesses in the U.S. and across the globe. The following are some recent examples of negligent or inadequate security lawsuits and jury verdicts:
Husband of a woman who was beaten to death outside Circus Circus Reno, a hotel and casino, filed a claim in March 2020 against the business for inadequate security, according to an article in the Reno Gazette Journal. The suit alleges the hotel not only failed to have an adequate security program, but also did not enforce its own policies designed to keep hotel guests safe.
• A hot yoga customer in Tallahassee, Florida filed a negligent security claim against the owners of the yoga studio after she was shot in the thigh by a gunman who opened fire on the customers in November 2018. An article in USA Today reported that the plaintiff alleged the commercial tenants in the building failed to provide adequate surveillance, lighting, or evacuation routes in order to prevent criminal activity.
• Jury awarded a $3.5 million verdict to a plaintiff in Bakersfield, California who was raped in her Holiday Inn hotel room after the front desk staff provided a key to the room to a man who claimed to be the plaintiff’s boyfriend. The front desk staff did not check the ID of the man, and handed him the key. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for the rape, and the woman filed a negligent security claim against the Holiday Inn. The multi-million jury verdict was reported in Bakersfield Now Eyewitness News.
• A 38-year-old woman in New York won a $300,000 settlement after filing a negligent security claim against the owner of her apartment building after she was raped. The plaintiff alleged that the building owner failed to adequately maintain the locks on the building, and the rapist was able to enter the building as a result of the broken locks.
• Baltimore Ravens NFL player filed a negligent security lawsuit against a South Beach hotel where he was burglarized and robbed in 2016. According to an article in the Miami Herald, the hotel settled the case for an undisclosed amount in 2017.
• Quality Inn in Connecticut settled a negligent security lawsuit after an 81-year-old hotel guest was raped in her room. According to the plaintiff, the front desk staff at the hotel gave her room key to the attacker.
• A New York woman filed a claim against a hotel in Helsinki, Finland in 2012 after she was sexually assaulted by a drunken man with a key to her room. The staff gave an intoxicated man a key to her room when he claimed to be the woman’s husband. The staff did not ask him to provide identification and gave him the key to her room, according to ABC News.
• $8.7 million verdict in a negligent security case in Miami-Dade County where a plaintiff was shot multiple times at a nightclub. The plaintiff worked as a club promoter at Coco Lounge, and he alleged that the owners of the club knew about security issues and failed to provide adequate security, according to an article in the Miami Herald.
• A Hawaii resident filed a negligent security claim against a Las Vegas casino in 2010 after being beaten and robbed in the casino restroom, according to an article in Hawaii News Now. The plaintiff alleged that the casino did not provide adequate security, and the case was settled.
Additionally, several lawsuits have been filed in recent years against vacation resorts outside the United States. Reports of rapes, sexual assaults, and criminal acts have been widely reported at resorts in Jamaica, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.
Michigan Statute of Limitations to File a Negligent Security Lawsuit
If you were injured in a criminal act that occurred at business or commercial property where the security was inadequate, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit against the negligent property owner. If you miss the deadline, your case will be lost forever.
Each state has its own statute of limitations for different types of personal injury lawsuits. The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. In some states, the statute of limitations is as short as one or two years, while other states have statutes of limitations in personal injury cases of up to four years.
For example, under Michigan law (MCL 600.5805) a plaintiff has three years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit. To be clear, the “clock” on this type of claim will begin to “tick” on the date of the criminal act that caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
For cases involving attacks that occurred outside of the United States, the timelines and deadlines are completely different. And for cruise ships, there special requirements regarding the time deadlines and even the court locations where cases can be filed.
Contact a Michigan Negligent Security Attorney to Start Your Case
If you were injured in an act of violence that resulted from negligent security, you may be eligible to file a premises liability lawsuit to seek compensation.
An experienced and aggressive negligent security attorney can help you to seek the financial compensation you deserve. Contact Buckfire Law now to start your case.
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