Many people think of crime as random, difficult to predict and difficult to prevent. And they believe the only people liable for injuring victims are the criminals themselves. In some cases, both of these sentiments are true.
But property owners – especially commercial property owners in known crime areas – are responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent crime, respond to it and to ensure that guests are safe. When they don’t, victims can file a premises liability lawsuit alleging negligent or inadequate security.
A recent and tragic example comes from a resort in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, where a young man was killed, and his cousin was wounded in a shooting at the hotel in July. At the time of the shooting, both victims were attending a party hosted by the deceased victim’s brother, who was a both an employee of the hotel and a paying guest that evening.
The surviving victim is now suing the resort for personal injury and negligent security, while the mother of the deceased victim has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Both parties allege that the resort was known (by its owners) to be a high-crime area, and yet the defendants failed to enact proper security measures to keep guests safe.
According to news reports, the evidence in this case already appears to be strong for the plaintiffs. Over the past few years, there have been a high number of calls to and responses from the local sheriff’s office and the Fort Myers Beach Fire & Rescue organization to incidents occurring at the resort.
In the wake of the shooting, the resort announced new security measures for the property. But these, of course, are too late to prevent the horrific crime from earlier this summer, or the myriad of other criminal incidents that have occurred previously.
Property owners cannot be held liable for every criminal act on a given premises, regardless of location or history. In a negligent/inadequate security lawsuit, it is important for plaintiffs to show that the property owners knew or should have known that crime was common and/or likely and that they failed to take steps despite this knowledge. At first glance, both seem easy to demonstrate in the case mentioned above.
If you or a loved one have been severely injured due to property owner negligence, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and legal options.