Negligent Security: When Can I Sue?

 

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Negligent Security: When Can I Sue?

Have you ever been mugged at the common area of an apartment complex? Or have you been a victim of a violent crime at the parking lot of a strip mall, nightclub, or bar? If yes, you may have had a shot at a massive negligent security claim, but you didn't know it. 

What is a negligent security claim? 

It's a type of claim that looks to hold a property owner responsible for the injuries caused to a victim of a violent act or crime in and around their property for lack of proper security measures. 

For example, if you get mugged at a strip mall's parking lot that has bad lights, non-functional cameras, and no security people insight to help, you should be suing for a negligent security claim. 

It's incumbent upon property owners to provide adequate security in the common areas of their property. More so if there's a reason to believe those areas may be dangerous due to prior incidents on that facility or adjacent property.  

The property owner's failure to put the proper security measures in place to prevent that type of foreseeable danger is one of the pillars your negligent security claim depends on. 

What are the proper security measures? 

A facility owner should provide preventive security such as a well-lit parking lot, working cameras, and other measures. There is also the need for boots on the ground security to stop violent acts. 

Unfortunately, many property owners do not put these measures in place because they don't serve their short-term business interests. But it's yours and our duties to hold them accountable if you or someone you know is ever injured at their property.

Learn more in this episode of the David vs. Goliath podcast with elite civil trial lawyers Matt Dolman and his partner, Stan Gipe. They discuss all you need to know about negligent security claims, why you have a high chance of winning, and real-life examples of successful negligent security trials. 

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In this episode: 

  • [00:33] Stan Gipe and Matt Dolman introduce the topic of the day: negligent security
  • [01:13] A property owner has to provide you with adequate security 
  • [04:04] What level of security should you expect in a common area with foreseeable danger?  
  • [04:56] Common areas prone to negligent security cases  
  • [07:14] The proper security measures are not enough   
  • [08:08] A negligent security case example 
  • [09:11] If you get mugged in a parking lot, is it only the criminal that's responsible?  
  • [10:10] Why you should never overlook a negligent security issue
  • [10:36] Proving and winning a negligent security case: a real-life example 
  • [12:06] How businesses make themselves culpable for providing inadequate security
  • [14:16] Why do more people need to know about negligent security claims?
  • [17:40] Conclusion: your right to security in and around a commercial property explained

Transcript

Welcome to another episode of the David vs Goliath podcast. I'm attorney Matt Dolman with the Dolman Law Group, and I'm with my partner in crime, Stan Gipe.

Hello. I think today we're going to talk a little bit about negligent security. And this is kind of a species of claims that happens when someone gets injured typically due to a violent act or a crime of some sort. And we're looking to hold a landlord or property owner responsible, because they didn't take the proper steps.

Yeah. They failed to institute proper security measures, if you will, or failed to follow proper security guidelines, maybe they had ... The security guard may have had inadequate training. Maybe there wasn't proper lighting in the parking lot where someone was mugged. There's a number of different scenarios that we can take you through where this occurs.

But basically we're looking at the property owner has a duty to the individual on their property. We got to show that they breached that duty, they failed to employ proper for security measures. And that breach led to the injuries that our client has sustained.

Yeah. I mean, typically you're looking at situations where almost always the property owner's in a better position to know the dangers of any given situation than a visitor. Most of the time we're talking commercial establishments, visitors going to something. You may or may not be familiar with an area you're going to.

If you operate a facility, a nightclub, something like that that's in a high crime area. If you have reason to believe the parking lot may be dangerous, then it's incumbent upon you to take the steps to make sure your invitees and guests are safe when entering that area you have a reason to believe is dangerous. The level of security that needs to be provided is directly relevant to the area and the situation in which this event's occurring, be it a nightclub or anything else.

Any prior issues that they're well aware of that have occurred on that facility or an adjacent facility. So if you're in a shopping center and you know of previous criminal issues that have occurred in that parking lot, whether there was an assault, cars being broken into. If you're not employing the proper security measures, based on that foreseeable danger, that's where we build the case off of.

And you bring up a good point. I've had this particular case, and it's real interesting as a landlord. All right. Let's say you own a strip mall.

Okay.

That common area, that parking lot is common area to all of the stores in the strip mall. If I rent a standalone building, a lot of times that parking lot goes along with the building itself, Hey, no one's allowed to use it but the building.

Big difference, and we've had this case before. Let's say you rent to a bar, a kind of a rowdy bar. And what happens at two o'clock or three o'clock when the bar closes?

Everybody pours out in the parking lot.

Right. So you have, if you rent to that bar, you know that every morning at two or 3:00 AM, that parking lot is likely to be full of drunk people. Drunk people who may misbehave, drunk people who tend to cause fights, drunk people who just left the bar and are shutting down and may not be in the best mood.

And lack the faculties to make the best decisions, sure.

And what happens in those situations?

That's when incidents occur.

Yeah, you get it. You get fights, you get attitudes, you get all these things. So you, as a property owner, have a duty to step in and go, "Okay. If I know this bar's closing at 3:00 AM and I control the common area, I need to make sure there's security there."

And adequate security, enough security for the amount of patrons or amount of individuals that you can expect to be in that parking lot at that time.

And security isn't just a person, security is someone ... A person may be there, there's interventional security. Hey, this security guard sees something occurring, steps in and stops it.

And then there's a preventive security. And these would be things like, hey, you know that crime's less likely to happen in a well lit parking lot.

Of course.

You know crime's less likely to happen if you've got signs and cameras up saying, "You're being watched. This area is being monitored."

100%. Or a store that has a sign that says, "We only keep $50 in the cash register at a time."

Exactly. And you'll see it now, so there's a lot of deterrent type of security also that's necessary, or that's incumbent upon a property owner or landlord to take care of for people. And mostly, and I think I could probably speak for both of us, most of the negligent security cases I've run across involved either nightclubs or apartment complexes.

Yeah, for the most part it's been apartment complexes. I've seen a few nightclubs, a lot of fights, altercations that occur after hours. But parking lots, common areas at apartment complexes is a pretty common theme that we've seen over and over again.

And many times these apartment complexes, it's in a high crime area. It's an urban area. Not necessarily always high crime, but a moderate crime with no security measures. Sometimes we've seen broken gates, broken doors, lights that are not working. And again-

Security guards that are sent home early.

Or not making the proper rounds. So it's both the deterrent factor and their inability to actually properly secure the property.

Right. And we get this a lot, even in our Tampa area. As places develop, you get certain areas of town that maybe are rundown, and you start having people invest money and it develops. And as it's going through, you get these nice apartment complexes or condos that sit in areas where not everyone is experiencing the same sort of wealth those tenants experience.

Sure.

And what happens is, in those neighborhoods, a lot of times you have criminals. And criminals are opportunists. They're looking for-

Yeah, you said the exact ... Crimes of opportunity,

That's it, they're looking for a victim. If there is a gate around an apartment complex to keep people out, they're less likely to go in and mug people.

Sure.

If there's security, they're less likely to go in and mug people. So what you look at is the opportunity, you provide the deterrent. All right. If you put an apartment complex in a high crime area and take zero precautions, you know people are going to get robbed in the parking lot.

Of course.

Okay. So the level of precaution, what you have to do is directly proportional to the risk associated with the endeavor you're on or you're involved in. If you've got an apartment complex, that's in a low crime area, you're typically not having to take the same sort of steps that you would to protect an apartment complex in a high crime area.

Correct.

Okay. And one of the other things we see a lot in these cases is, not only is it taking the right security measures and steps and putting the plan in place, it's actually seeing that the plan is carried out.

Of course. The security guards not making the rounds, the equipment not being checked on and make sure that there is proper maintenance issues on that said equipment. I mean, these are the issues that we commonly see, you see lax land owners.

Yeah. Nonfunctioning lights, nonfunctioning cameras, these types of things. Where, hey, someone bought the property, they installed the correct measures. But then over time they've become deteriorated, they didn't keep up with them.

Which by the way, not to get off this topic, but far too often, and I'm sure you've seen it as well, when we request surveillance the cameras were not working at the time. It's actually more often not. The rule is the cameras probably were not working. The exception is they have working cameras that were in order.

Absolutely. I had one of these cases, probably two years ago, that involved a shooting in a parking lot. And it was exactly that, it was a high crime area. The parking lot had a fence around it, but that was it. They'd had incidents in the parking lot, they knew people hung out in the parking lot. It was one of these parking lots where people would sit on cars, have some drinks, do stuff like that, and hang out.

So they had reason to believe that there were things going on in the parking lot that could lead to incidents. The security cameras didn't work. The security lights-

Shocking.

... didn't work. My guy gets shot because everyone knew that. The guy that shot him knew that the security camera didn't work. We knew that because he said something about it at the scene when it happened. We were able to make claims for things like that, but a lot of people, when they get injured and they get injured in a crime like this, they don't realize that someone else may be responsible for it.

Sure.

If you get mugged in a parking lot, a lot of times you're thinking ... Your first thought is, "That criminal, that criminal did this." And you're not really thinking about there may be someone else there that knew more about this or should have been responsible for providing security.

And this is almost always in a situation where you're involved in visiting a commercial establishment. We got a lot of problems with malls. Mall parking lots are known to be dangerous. Like you-

Shopping centers and malls are the most common.

Yeah. That security guards you see driving around in the mall parking lot, with the yellow and green lights flashing on top of the thing? He's not trying to catch anybody doing anything. He's showing up with lights on him ahead of a time.

Yeah. That is a pure deterrent, when you're getting paid 10 to $12 an hour, you're not looking to put your life on the line again in lieu of criminal activity. But it does serve as a deterrent. Well, one thing criminals hate is witnesses.

Yeah, so it serves as a deterrent. But these cases, Matt, and I feel like they get overlooked because they are sometime the most significant injuries. We've got one right now we're working on with a negligent security claim involving a gunshot.

Yep.

I got some real significant injuries and the apartment-

And the apartment complex.

Yeah. The apartment complex in question didn't take the necessary security measures. They had a plan in place that they weren't following.

I had won a couple of years ago in Clearwater, and it's a shopping center. And in that shopping center there's a school for at-risk children. Those who have committed offenses and been kicked out of their school. Generally, mostly high school kids and some junior high school so between the ages of 12 to 18. Many of them are juvenile delinquents ,and I'm not labeling anyone.

But knowing that, the issue that we had in this case is one of the tenants, his son came out of his establishment. And I'm trying not to get too many facts away because it is a confidential settlement, but he was going to his car and he was assaulted by seven or eight of them and attacked. And he had a broken orbital bone, shattered cheekbone, broke his jawbone. He had to undergo reconstructive surgery in his face.

And it was a seven-figure settlement, the case wound up getting resolved, and after two years of litigation. But it boiled down to the lack of security measures in place, knowing that there was a foreseeable risk. And what we did in that case, and what you commonly do on these type of cases, Stan, is we did a grid search. And we searched all the 911 calls that have gone out from that establishment and the adjacent ... Not just the establishment, the parking lot, and the adjacent parking lots in that area to Clearwater Police Department and Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. And how many times they responded and what were those incidents and what happened.

And it turned out that there had been seven assaults that had already occurred in that premises. Or shouldn't say premises, that shopping center, in the common area, over the course of the last five years prior to that incident occurring.

And I can see that. It's really an interesting scenario because Matt, as you know, the number one reason a business exists mostly is to profit.

Of course.

They want to make money. Security measures are never a profit center for a business.

Of course not.

You're never going to sit there and say, "Wow, look at how much money I'm making off of that new light in the parking lot. Look at how much money that security camera is making me." So the guy sitting at the top of this business of people making the decisions, sometimes cut corners.

Yeah. And those bean counters who are cutting corners though, they don't realize the indirect benefit they'll have to their business over a period of time if they just employ the proper security measures to make people feel safe in that very parking lot and that very common area that their establishment is located.

See, but that's the law long-term view. If you're [crosstalk 00:12:54]-

Yeah, they're just looking at the short view. And it's money out, and, "When we're going to get that money back," and-

If you invest in security measures, you're going to be less profitable next month.

Sure.

You're right-

In a short period. But you have an incident that occurs on your property, in the curtilage of the property, in common area and you're responsible for, is due to your negligence. You overlooked the prior security concern or your equipment that wasn't in working order. You're liable, and that's an incident that could bankrupt the business.

Absolutely. But that is sort of a risk as something that people tend to kick down the road, they think it's not going to happen to them. "Hey, we'll worry about that later. We've got more pressing things now." And that's exactly when these sort of claims get opened, where people are not taking the reasonable steps they should to protect their guests and invitees. You're talking robbery, rape, assaults, all kinds of very, very, very significant type of injuries.

Yep.

And a lot of times it's just, they're not pursued. And I wish more people were aware of the duties landlords and business owners owe to their invitees. Not just to keep you from falling, not just to make the premises safe from a physical standpoint, but to make the environment safe for everyone there. And that's where we get into negligent security.

Yeah, and just consider this. Four of my 10 biggest case resolutions in Dolman Law Group are negligent security cases. Yet negligent security cases probably make up no more than 5% of my overall cases, at most, probably not even that. In terms of the amount of car accidents, slip and fall premises liability cases we handle, negligent security is a very small fraction.

So for that to make up 40% of my biggest case resolutions to date, tells you these cases are usually incredibly significant. The damages are readily ascertainable. And it's easy to prove that there's either lax security or no security measures in place.

Yeah, and the person responsible is someone with the means, the ability to take these steps and take these measures that otherwise didn't. And they got the ability to compensate victims when it goes wrong.

That's a big thing in our industry, Matt, you know this. Every catastrophic claim we come across that we make a great recovery on, there's a catastrophic claim we come across where, for whatever reason, we can't get this person the money they deserve because of the at-fault party or the wrongdoer just doesn't have any assets or insurance.

More often than not.

More often not. Except in negligent security claims, because usually we're dealing with commercial landlords, premises owners, people who have either means to pay settlements or the insurance there to pay settlements.

Yep. Release a portion of these settlement to the extent that they go bankrupt.

Yeah. Well, and there you go. That's more than we get out of your typical, standard nine-to-five guy who gets hit by an auto accident. These claims are often overlooked. They're often ignored.

And I can't tell you, I mean, how many times I've had someone come in and actually pick up this claim a year or two after it happened because they didn't really realize they had a claim. They sat down, they thought about it. And then they came in and said, "You know what? Let me ask you, what do you think about this?" And you'd be amazed. I mean, these claims have a lot of teeth, they have a lot of value. There's a lot of different things that make these worth pursuing for the victims, if you can just get the victims in to examine the possibility.

Correct. And you'd be hard-pressed to find cases that are better to bring in front of a jury.

Yeah. Because when we talk about juries, juries are people. High verdicts tend to be driven by emotion. What upsets people? What makes them mad? Who do they feel sorry for? These kind of things.

And when you get negligent security cases, typically you have a sympathetic person because they're injured as a victim. And you've got somewhat of a wealthy, I don't want to say rich person, but you've got a defendant with means. And usually throughout the process, they've come off a slightly callous-

Yeah.

... throughout this whole thing.

Yeah. You're not going after an individual, you're going after a corporation that failed to either spend the money, or they were lax in their duty to inspect the devices, security measures they had in place.

I agree 100%. So I really like those claims. I know we've talked about this several times. It's one of sort of my favorite almost, I feel, underserved areas of the law here.

And people, I don't think necessarily realize. If you are living in an apartment complex, if you're visiting a mall, if you are a commercial guest anywhere, that landlord, the person who owns that property, the person who invited you to that property, has a duty to take reasonable measure to ensure your security in light of the surrounding circumstances.

Correct. So if you or a loved one, friend, colleague, whatever have, you've been injured as a result of negligence exhibited by a landlord, a property owner, give us a call today, we're always available. Eight, three, three, five, five, crash. We should get a better number than just crash, because crash really just connotates auto accidents, but we cover the whole gamut of personal injury.

So eight, three, three, five, five, crash. You can reach Stan or I, 24-7. We're always working. And you can reach me at [email protected] D-O-L-M-A-N-L-A-W.com, and stan.gipe, [email protected] Drop us a line, we'd be happy to take a look at any case, any potential claim that you may have. This is all we do.

Yeah. And just so people know, and I think most people at this point in time realize it, but it never cost you a penny to have us look at the facts and tell you what we think. It's always free to come in and say, "Hey, this happened, do I have a case?" The type of law we do, it's contingency based, it's injury law. So if you got any questions whatsoever, don't hesitate to give us a call.

Well, that wraps up another episode of the David vs. Goliath Podcast. I'm Matt Dolman. Thank you, and have a great day. Stan?

Hey, thanks. It's always a pleasure. We enjoy it. And I'd like to tell everyone, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it. Go to dolmanlaw.com if you get any questions, because we do truly have one of the most robust and deepest websites out there for information on any type of injury claim.

Yes, sir. Have a great day.

💡 Meet Your Hosts 💡

Name Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

Title: Partner at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Specialty: Matt is a nationally recognized insurance and personal injury attorney and focuses much of his practice on the litigation of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. 

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram 

Name Stanley Gipe, Esq.

Title: Partner and Head of Litigation at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA

Specialty: Stan is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. This distinction connotes expertise in the discipline of trial practice. He has served as lead counsel on over 1,000 Florida personal injury lawsuits.

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The insights and views presented in “David vs. Goliath” are for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. The information presented is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney. Nor does tuning in to this podcast constitute an attorney-client relationship of any kind. Any case result information provided on any portion of this podcast should not be understood as a promise of any particular result in a future case. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers: Big firm results, small firm personal attention.