SECURITY NEGLIGENCE LAWYER

The law is clear: property owners and landlords must keep their property reasonably safe. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. That includes providing security. For that reason, apartment complexes, hotels, and other businesses must have enough security measures in place to keep their tenants, guests, and customers reasonably safe from violent crime. When business owners fail to protect their customers and someone gets hurt as a result, the law permits the victim to bring a “negligent security” or “inadequate security” case against the owner.  Our security negligence lawyers know how those cases work.

COMMERCIAL ENTITIES

Landlords also have a reasonable duty of care to keep common areas safe.  So for example, if an attack occurs in a laundry room or on a shared patio, the landlord may be accountable for injuries caused by the attack.  While landlords have a duty to protect tenants, they must also protect family members, friends, and other guests who have a tenant’s permission to be on the premises.

Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and drug rehabilitation centers are responsible for protecting vulnerable patients, while schools and daycare facilities are responsible for protecting children from crimes by employees, visitors, or strangers.

SECURITY THREATS

Business owners have a responsibility to know whether their tenants, guests, or customers are safe.  To assess the safety of the property, there are several steps that business owners can take.  A business can appoint a safety manager to monitor crime, order a “crime grid” from the local police agency, interview tenants and employees, or speak with adjoining landowners.  If the owner doesn’t know what’s happening on his or her own property, that owner is putting his tenants, guests, or customers at risk.

Business owners have a duty to act as soon as they become aware of a threat.  There are several ways in which a business owner can address a threat on commercial premises:

  • Provide security measures (see below for examples) to protect customers who are not aware of the threat.
  • Close the business until the threat has passed.
  • Issue a warning to people who could be harmed.

Unfortunately, some business owners ignore their duty.  Whether they ignore the risks they know about because they hope the risks will go away or because they’re more interested in profit than safety, business owners can be held accountable for their inaction.  If you were injured as a result of a business owner’s failure to act, you may be able to file a negligent security claim against the company.

PROTECTIVE MEASURES

In March 2016, former ESPN reporter Erin Andrews won a sizeable verdict against the Nashville Marriott Hotel because the hotel failed in its duty to keep Andrews, a paying customer, reasonably safe.  When her stalker, Michael David Barrett, called the hotel and asked for her room number, a hotel employee gave him the information.  Barrett was able to book an adjacent room, remove the peepholes from the door, and record video footage of Andrews undressing.  Barrett put the footage online, where it racked up more than 300 million views.  A jury awarded Ms. Andrews $55 million, 49 percent of which must be paid by the Nashville Marriott.

Business owners have a duty to minimize foreseeable risks.  When Barrett specifically asked about Ms. Andrews’ travel dates and then requested a room next to hers, someone from the hotel should have seen his behavior as a potential safety risk.  Had hotel employees not given out confidential information, Barrett would not have been able to record Andrews without her knowledge and consent.

There are several security measures a business owner can take to protect customers.

  • Installing video cameras to record all of the activity on the premises
  • Drilling peepholes in doors
  • Installing fences and gates to keep criminal perpetrators off the premises
  • Implementing safety procedures and ensuring employees follow those procedures
  • Implementing check-in, check-out procedures
  • Hiring security guards to patrol the premises
  • Putting up signs to warn customers about potential threats
  • Installing extra lights in areas of concern
  • Conducting background checks on tenants and employees

GETTING LEGAL HELP

Cases against irresponsible landowners can be rewarding.  These “negligent security” cases can not only help victims, but can force other property owners into doing the right thing and providing security.  At Butler Tobin, we know how to win them.

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