Foreseeable Public Harm: Negligent Security and Gun Violence

Foreseeable Public Harm: Negligent Security and Gun Violence

Under an area of law known as “premises liability,” property owners can be held responsible for personal injuries that result from their failure to provide reasonably secure premises. For example, a patron who is assaulted while shopping at a store may be able to recover compensation for medical bills or time missed from work due to the injury if the store owner lacked sufficient security despite knowing that the site was in a high crime area where other attacks had taken place.

Negligent security cases commonly arise from fights, robberies, rapes, and stabbings, but there may be no more frequent cause these days than shootings. According to 2015 data from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, seven Georgia counties (including Bibb) had the highest gun death rates per 100,000 people. Inadequate security contributed to some of these deaths as well as to many injuries. Last year, incidents involving guns occurred at a number of Georgia commercial properties, including motels, restaurants, stores, nightclubs, apartments, gas stations, and malls.

You have the right to feel safe when you are at establishments such as these. Business owners have a duty to protect customers and visitors from foreseeable physical harm. Previous shootings on or near the premises serve as notice to the owners that there is a safety issue against which they must take reasonable action to protect their invitees. Depending on the nature of the incidents and of the property, there are a number of security measures that can be implemented to deter further events – and relieve the owners from liability.

Possible precautions include:

  • Controlling access (gates, fences, keycards, passcodes, etc.)
  • Reinforcing doors or using more durable ones
  • Installing surveillance cameras and/or alarm systems
  • Hiring security guards
  • Installing ample, bright lighting
  • Changing operating hours to less risky times or days
  • Trimming landscaping to eliminate hiding places.

The concept of foreseeability is a fairly subjective one that is generally defined as what an ordinary person in similar circumstances might expect to happen. When dealing with third-party criminal acts, foreseeability is typically measured by whether there were previous crimes at the property, whether similar crimes occurred at similar businesses in the area, or whether there was news coverage about a crime spree in the area. Any of those factors has the potential to serve as an adequate prompt to business owners that they must take reasonable steps to protect customers from that risk. If their negligent failure to do so was the legal cause of injury to a member of the public, there may be a legal cause of action based on premises liability law.

If criminal behavior on someone else’s property has injured you or led to the wrongful death of a loved one, you can may be able to hold the owner accountable for failing to address foreseeable security lapses. To find out more about your unique situation, discuss it with one of the Georgia negligent security lawyers at The Mann Law Firm. Based in Macon, we serve all of Middle Georgia, including Dublin, Warner Robins and Milledgeville. We have over 50 years of experience helping people, and we can help you. For advice on how to proceed next, or if you have any questions about this topic, call us at (478) 742-3381 or fill out our online form. We are pleased to offer free, no-obligation consultations.