Premises liability involves the property owner’s responsibility when a person is injured on premises including stores, restaurants, homes and public sidewalks. Property owners may be liable when their actions or neglect result in injury, wrongful death or damage to another’s property. Injuries range from a fall after tripping on a defective sidewalk to attack by domestic animals. Property damage could be caused by construction. At issue is whether the property owner exercised “reasonable care” to maintain safe premises. Property owners failing to do so are “at-fault” and could be ordered by the court to pay the injured person’s medical costs and other expenses. Property owners’ responsibility for safe premises varies by state. So does the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Security a Factor in Premises Liability Cases
Business owners enter into a risky contract whenever an invitee (patron) enters their premises. They may be liable for damages or injuries that are incurred on the premises through premises liability laws. They are required to provide adequate security measures for their invitees, including but not limited to safety measures should a violent crime transpire on the premises. Crime foreseeability is an important concept in premises liability litigation and involves a business owners’ standard of care in providing an adequate standard of care in case of violent crime on the premises.
What is Crime Foreseeability?
Crime foreseeability is essentially a statistical concept which provides an evaluation of the potential for violent crime on a premises and interprets this data both quantitatively and quantitatively. This may sound confusing, but what it means is that in order to exercise reasonable care on the part of invitees to a premises, a business owner must assess certain factors of a premises that may contribute to the likelihood of a violent crime taking place there. These factors are location; premises type and usage (“nature” of the premises); and crime demographics in the area in which the premises lies.
Location, Location, Location
The location of a premises means both its physical location and its relationship to other buildings, businesses, and residences. The location factor also takes into consideration the area’s demographics (population density, traffic statistics, proximity to other metropolitan areas or roads). Location is important because it allows a business owner to assess likely crime. For example, a store located in a quiet suburb and open banker’s hours is less likely to experience the same kinds or frequency of crime experienced by a business situated on a busy street in the inner city and open 24 hours a day.
Nature of the Premises
The nature of the premises comprises characteristics of the physical location (premises) and its business type. It considers whether the premises is zoned as residential or commercial and factors in such characteristics as hours of operation, type of business, potential clientele, and the openness of the property to the public. These factors change the crime foreseeability for a business situated in a certain premises: for example, a book store located in a mall is likely to experience shoplifting or petty theft, whereas a bar located in a hotel may see violent crime or harassment.
When calculating crime foreseeability, it is important for premises owners to take into consideration the area’s crime demographics. The availability and type of crime demographics may be crucial in a premises liability case. For example, if a brutal murder takes place in an area in which only petty theft and harassment has ever been recorded in crime statistics, it may be found that the defendant premises owner did not have any way of foreseeing such a violent crime on the premises.
How Business Owners Can Protect Themselves
A crime foreseeability analysis can help business and premises owners protect themselves against costly premises liability litigation in the future. These owners should consider contacting a security expert or premises liability lawyer who can devise a security plan and advise the premises owner on what steps will protect them from future premises litigation.
Premises Liability: Legal Definitions for your Premises Law Suit
Premises liability law involves legal responsibility (“liability”) of a land or property owner in injuries or other damages suffered by persons present on the premises. Was the Plaintiff an Invitee, Licensee or Trespasser. The property or premises owner is called the defendant for purposes of the premises liability law suit.