Every day, people find themselves in rough situations facing an assailant preparing to attack them. Local law enforcement officials’ role is to solve criminal wrongdoing and apprehend criminal assailants. However, who is held responsible for preventing or deterring such conduct?
Even though an attacker can be held criminally liable for their actions, that fact does not alleviate the harm suffered by their victim. Often, those facing criminal punishment for any number of violent acts are unphased by the threat of civil penalties by their victim. Thus, many victims may pursue other means of compensation – often from the owner of the property where the negligent security incident occurred.
What is Inadequate Security, and How is it an Actionable Claim?
In an inadequate security action, the victim of a violent attack seeks compensation from the owner and/or controller of the property where the violent attack occurred. Under this particular negligence theory, the owner and/or controller of the property was in the best position to prevent the crime from taking place and failed to address it. Of course, not every criminal act can be prevented, and not every owner/controller of property is liable, but failure to address security concerns can heighten an entity’s liability.
An Inadequate Security Example
Many major cities and suburbs across Texas have multi-layered, covered parking lots. Many parking lot operators ensure their facilities are secured by installing adequate lighting, hiring round-the-clock security, and installing coded entry points. However, what if a parking facility did not provide these services?
A person walks to their car late on a business day, after regular business hours. The person was then attacked by an assailant that hopped over a short fence surrounding the parking lot, entered the facility undetected, and stalked the victim. The facility was poorly lit, with no security guards or surveillance cameras. Would the victim have an actionable claim against the facility? Possibly, yes.
How Property Owners Should Address Inadequate Security
Owners and controllers of private property that allow free or generally unrestricted access to the public should adhere to specific security standards to ensure the safe patronage of their facilities. Appropriate forms of security can include:
- Use of security personnel to patrol the facility.
- Closed-caption surveillance camera footage.
- Installation of physical barriers to prevent unauthorized entry, like walls, doors, gates, and security fencing.
- Installation of proper lighting and alarm equipment.
- Regular inspection and maintenance of the facility and its security facets.
- Regular notifications to patrons and visitors of possible security risks and the steps taken to prevent harm.
Frequent Inadequate Security Locations
Generally, assailants target several areas or services to commit heinous and violent acts, resulting in robberies, assaults, and even murder. Commonly unsafe areas and services can include:
- Large parking lots, especially during off-business hours and at night.
- Large apartment complexes.
- Areas around shopping districts and restaurants.
- Campuses of large schools and universities.
- Hospitality establishments like hotels and resorts.
- Mass transportation stations for buses and trains.
- ATMs, information booths, vending machines, and other kiosks.
Understanding Landlord / Property Owner Responsibility
Unfortunately, Texas state law does not provide many businesses and industries with a central standard for security. Instead, many of these businesses can seek guidance from specific statutes, local ordinances, and industry norms to guide relevant security standards.
Nonetheless, Texas Property Code Chapter 92, Subchapter D, provides that covered landlords must abide by specific property security standards for tenants. These standards include:
- Installation of specific security devices for entry onto the property and into a domicile (apartment).
- Maintenance and upkeep of the security devices used to enter the property and/or domicile.
- Installation of smoke detectors in each room of a property or domicile.
- Installation of fire extinguishers throughout the facility.
Proving Negligence in Texas
All personal injury cases, from car accidents to work accidents, hinge on the legal theories applied to the particular case. With proper application of the facts to the law through diligent evidence collection and competent lawyering, a plaintiff can obtain a settlement or verdict that compensates them for the damages they suffered as a result of the actions or omissions of others.
Negligent security is based on an underlying theory of negligence, broken down into a four-part legal test:
- Duty: every person or entity owes a standard duty of care to others. Specifically, the person or entity owes others a standard duty of care based on a reasonable person or entity in a similar situation.
- Breach: to be held liable, the defendant must breach their duty of care.
- Causation: once duty and breach have been established, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions (or inaction) caused the plaintiff harm.
- Damages: finally, the plaintiff must show that the sustained monetary damages resulted from the defendant’s actions.
Applying Negligence to a Negligent Security Case
When applying negligence to a landlord or owner of a property for a negligent security case, the plaintiff must identify the entity or entities that own and/or control the property. Second, the plaintiff must show that as the owner and/or controller of the property, the defendant failed to provide adequate security (security guards, surveillance cameras, lighting, etc.) to protect visitors and patrons from harm.
Next, the plaintiff must show that but for the defendant’s omission to provide adequate security, the criminal act would not have occurred, or the likelihood of the event would have been greatly diminished. Finally, the plaintiff must show that they sustained actual harm, resulting in monetary loss, due to the owner/controller’s failure to provide adequate security.
Types of Compensation Awarded in Negligent Security Cases
Often, plaintiffs pursue civil action in negligent security cases to punish the owner or controller of the facility for their failure or to at least get the business to enact policy changes to improve security. However, in many instances, the guaranteed remedies are compensation paid to the plaintiff, which can include:
- Medical costs and bills resulting from injuries.
- Property damage resulting from the event.
- Loss of income from work missed due to injuries sustained.
- Pain and suffering damages.
Contact Wolf Law, PLLC Today
Suppose you have recently been the victim of an attack while walking through a parking lot, in an apartment complex, or in some other large facility. In that case, you may have an actionable negligent security case. Our Texas premises liability lawyers at Wolf Law, PLLC have the experience and skills needed to advocate for you after a traumatic and life-altering event. Contact our office today for a free consultation.