Premises Liability – Negligent Security – Our Misplaced Trust in Institutional Safeguards

Serving nearby areas by Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida

Business operators and landowners owe very similar duties to what have historically been known as “invitees.” An “invitee” is what we would commonly think of as a “guest” or someone with permission to be at a certain place, perhaps a business, through express or implied invitation.
 
For example, a shopping mall has a duty to protect invitees from reasonably foreseeable harms. Further, a shopping mall also has a duty to reasonably investigate what those harms may be. Certain harms may consist of: defective architecture (e.g., floors, ceilings, stairs, parking lots, etc.) causing someone to become injured, the lack of safety of those things over a period of time or due to environmental factors (e.g., floors delaminating and becoming unsafe), and third party criminal activity causing injury to an invitee. What this article focuses on is: security – or, rather, the proper implementation of security safeguards.
 
While we trust (without knowing why) that institutions such as shopping malls, college campuses, movie theaters, and hotels will investigate risks that their clientele may face, it is equally important that when these establishments enact certain safeguards to protect guests, that they do so properly. A shopping mall that has security must make sure that its security operation meets a certain standard. Harm that results to an individual as a result of the failure to live up to that standard by the security outfit may constitute negligence – or, more specifically, negligent security.
 
Just because a business or landowner has security doesn’t necessarily mean that their security safeguards are proper. Individuals casually accept the mere presence of security as “acceptable” though that acceptance is misplaced because while a landowner or business owner may contract for security services, that duty is a non-delegable one and must be performed properly according to industry standards. There are two steps: The first is that it is crucial for commercial establishments to enact security safeguards. The second step is that when those establishments do enact the safeguards, they do so properly.
 
A non-exhaustive list of what security safeguards may consist of includes: camera systems, certain architectural design, adequate lighting, the employ of adequate security guards (and the proper and continued training and supervision thereof), control access devices, standard operating procedures that allow the establishment to adapt to new threats, security audits, and/or a combination of these things.
 
You should also know that the duty to protect invitees from harms (including third party criminal acts) doesn’t just extend to the property owned or operated by the business, but also nearby property that a business may be exerting control over or appears to be exerting control over. 
 
If you or someone that you know has been injured at a business, contact Romano Law Group for a free consultation.

 - Corey B. Friedman