Business owners have a duty to maintain a safe property and avoid foreseeable risks, including the foreseeable danger of violent crimes. If a property is located in a high-crime area, property owners must provide good lighting, secure locks, security guards or other appropriate measures to protect guests and invitees. Our laws hold those property owners and businesses liable that choose to unnecessarily expose their visitors and customers to such dangers.
Sometimes the criminals are caught and charged with committing violent crimes and other times they escape and are never identified.
Depending on the answers to these and other questions, the business may be liable for the harms and losses caused on its premises by the criminal acts of third parties.
Generally, the owner of the business property has no duty to protect an invitee from a deliberate criminal attack by a third person. Missouri courts have noted several policy reasons for not imposing such a duty, including judicial reluctance to tamper with a traditional common law concept, the notion that the deliberate criminal act of a third person is an intervening cause of harm to another, and the difficulty that often exists in determining the foreseeability of criminal acts.
However, exceptions to the general no-duty rule arise from special relationships or from special facts and circumstances such that an act or omission exposes a person to an unreasonable risk of harm through the conduct of another.
Special relationships include those situations where a party entrusts herself to the protection of another and relies upon that person to provide a place of safety. Typically, special relationships include common carrier–passenger, school–student, innkeeper–guest, and sometimes employer-employee.
In this regard, did the business know or should it have known there were individuals present and acting in such a way as to indicate a danger to customer safety (i.e., wearing a mask and carrying a gun, or other type of suspicious criminal behavior or activity), and did they have sufficient time to prevent the assault, abduction, robbery or murder of the customer.
Special facts and circumstances also include the violent crimes exception, that the business knew or through the exercise of ordinary care should have known that the location has had numerous, recent and violent crimes and that the numerous, recent and violent crimes provided the business with sufficient notice of the need to exercise reasonable care in implementing and maintaining security procedures and/or security personnel to prevent or reduce the likelihood of such criminal attacks.
For this latest exception, it is important to understand the crime risks associated not only with the location of the crime, but the crime risks generally associated with the industry in which the business operates. A thorough investigation and evaluation of the practices and procedures of the business in understanding these risks, assessing these risks, and implementing and complying with adequate security measures are important. A critical issue will be what the business did to stop, prevent, or deter the criminal act or activity on its premises.
If you or a loved one was seriously hurt or killed as a result of the criminal conduct of another, contact our law office today to schedule your free initial consultation and case review. Let us use our legal expertise to represent your best interests.