In this article, we discuss if and when a business property owner is liable for the criminal acts of a third party on their property, and what you should do if you are injured by the criminal acts of a third party while on the property owned by a business.
The following is an easy to understand example:
You are doing your holiday shopping at one of the many malls in Los Angeles. You are on your way to your car with all of your bags of goodies, when suddenly a mugger runs out of the shadows, knocks you down, and steals all of your bags. In addition to losing all of your gifts, you struck your head on the pavement after being knocked down, and sustained a head injury. Must the shopping mall owners pay for your medical bills and other damages?
The general rule is that a business proprietor is not an “insurer of the safety of his invitees”.
BUT- a business owner is required to exercise reasonable care for their invitees’ safety, and is liable for injuries resulting from a breach of this duty.
“The general duty includes not only the duty to inspect the premises in order to uncover dangerous conditions, but includes the duty to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of third persons which threaten invitees where the occupant has reasonable cause to anticipate such acts and the probability of injury resulting therefrom.” Taylor v. Centennial Bowl, Inc. (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114.
This means that whether a business owner is liable for your injuries depends on whether the actions of the criminal third party (the mugger in our example) were “foreseeable“.
So the question then becomes: what makes such criminal actions like the attack in our example “foreseeable”? Well, this will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. If a property owner knew or reasonably should have known of circumstances that would have made such an attack more likely to occur, there is a greater chance that he or she will be liable for the injuries. Some of the typical questions that get asked are:
–Location: Was the business where the attack occurred located in a high-crime neighborhood?
Certain areas have a higher rate of crime than others. If it is a reasonably known fact that the area in which the attack occurred had a high rate of criminal acts–mugging, rape, assault, etc., it is more likely that the injury was foreseeable.
–Lighting: Was the location where the attack occurred well-lit?
Areas such as parking lots, and places that people are expected to travel on the property should have adequate lighting, especially at night. If the area where the attack occurred was not well-lit, it is more likely that the injury was foreseeable.
–Prior Occurrences: Had their been previous instances where similar attacks had occurred?
If there had been prior attacks in the same parking lot, and the owner knew or reasonably should have known about the prior occurrences, then it makes it more likely (“foreseeable”) that it would happen again unless certain measures were taken by the owner to prevent such attacks.
–Security: Was there appropriate security at the time of the attack?
In many cases, the security measures taken by the owner to prevent such attacks and injuries are inadequate. If their was not sufficient protection by the owner such as providing security guards, cameras, etc., it is more likely that the injury was foreseeable.
These are just a few of the questions that must be asked when trying to establish that a business owner is liable for your injuries caused by a criminal act of a third party while on their property. Getting the answers to these questions and establishing liability requires investigation and tactics that are best performed by an experienced attorney.
For over 30 years The Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have been helping victims who were injured by the criminal acts of a third party while on a business owner’s property the compensation they deserve. If you or someone you know has been injured, please call us today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.