When we think of negligence, we often think of people hurting another by acting carelessly or recklessly in the way they perform an action, or failing to perform the action at all. Negligence is therefore distinguished from the intentional torts, where one person wrongs another on purpose, such as in the case of assault, battery, or false imprisonment. However, there can be instances where a property owner’s negligence allows an assault to occur. In these situations, the property owner may be liable for the injuries caused by missing or inadequate security measures.
Owners and managers of apartment buildings, office buildings, and shopping malls have a duty to maintain common areas in a reasonably safe condition. Besides just cleaning up spills or providing warnings about steps that aren’t clearly marked, property owners should also make sure that stairwells, garages and carports are properly lit. Adequate lighting is not only necessary to help prevent trips and falls; a poorly-lit recessed area is an inviting place for an attacker to hide, waiting for the opportunity to assault, rob or kidnap an innocent, unsuspecting victim.
Just as a property owner who knows about a dangerous condition on the property is obligated to fix it, the duty to provide a safe environment may be even greater if the property owner is on notice of a security problem. For instance, if there has been a history of attacks, assaults, crime, or gang activity in the area, the property owner may be under a duty to provide security guards or patrols, or to install emergency lighting, alarms and other security measures.
You may think that the responsibility for an attack lies with the attacker, and that property owners cannot be held responsible for the actions of third parties they have no relationship with. This is true to some extent, and premises liability cases asserting negligent security often involve complicated fact scenarios and complex legal issues such as intervening events and superseding causes. Yet when it can be shown that the property owner acted negligently, and the assault would not have occurred had the property owner fulfilled its duty to the victim, whether a tenant, employee, customer, or other person invited onto the property, that property owner can and should be held liable for the damages caused by his or her negligence.
If you have suffered an attack or crime because of inadequate security to protect you, contact Leandros A. Vrionedes, P.C. in New York City to discuss any liability which the property owner may have toward you.