When Are Businesses Liable for Missouri Crime Victims?
A guest at a hotel is assaulted;
A customer pumping gas at the convenience store is robbed and shot;
A shopper is carjacked in the parking lot of a shopping mall;
A regular at the casino is the victim of a strong armed robbery after collecting his winnings;
A spectator is assaulted at the stadium during a game.
Sometimes the criminals are caught and charged with committing violent crimes and other times they escape and are never identified.
But questions often linger: Where was security? Why weren't there surveillance cameras? Why weren't the surveillance cameras working? Why was nobody watching the surveillance cameras? Where is the surveillance tape? Why wasn't there better lighting? Were the security doors locked? Were the security doors broken? How did the criminal get in the building? How did the criminal enter the parking lot? How much prior criminal activity was there at this hotel, convenience store, shopping mall, casino, or stadium? Why wasn't I warned of all of the prior criminal activity?
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.
The Law on Negligent Security
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.
Exceptions to Non-Liability
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.
Special facts and circumstances include two theories: an intentional infliction of injury by known and identifiable third persons; or, frequent and recent occurrences of violent crimes against persons on the premises by unknown assailants. In this regard, did the business no or should it have 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 new or through the exercise of ordinary care should have known that the location of the scene of numerous, recent and violent crimes 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. 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. A critical issue will be what the business did to stop, prevent, or deter the criminal act or activity on its premises.
Types of Premises
The following list of businesses and types of premises are representative of cases with a history of inadequate security claims:
- Innkeepers: Hotels and Motels
- Apartments and Condominiums
- Shopping Centers and Mall
- Parking Garages
- Bars, Taverns and Lounges
- Nursing Homes
- Gas Stations and Convenience Stores
- Office Buildings
- Airports and Churches
Contact a Skilled Crime Victims Attorney
Individuals who have been the victim of a crime and suffered injuries while customers or patrons of a business should consult with a competent negligent security personal injury attorney to assist them in pursuing a legal claim for compensation.
Holder Susan Slusher, LLC handles premises security cases in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia MO and throughout Missouri. Contact our legal team at (573) 499-1700 for a free initial consultation.