Proving a Negligent Security Case in Maryland
Negligent security lawsuits are recognized as valid claims as part of Maryland’s premises liability tort law. Under Maryland law, property owners have a duty to ensure that people on their premises are not the victims of “foreseeable” crimes. When a property owner fails to provide adequate protections, and a crime results, he or she may be liable.
Property owners owe a special duty of care to lawful visitors, that is, any visitor that the property owner could reasonably expect might enter onto the property, so long as that visitor was not engaged in illegal activity while on the property. In other words, trespassers are not afforded the special duty of care. When inadequate security for the property is provided, and a person is assaulted or attacked, a claim of "negligent security" can arise.
Sadly, violent attacks take place on business properties, more frequently than one might think. In fact, the statistics indicate that thousands of people each year are victims of violent crimes occurring on properties owned by businesses. Business properties may include anything from apartment buildings, parking lots, movie theatres, office buildings, university dorms, bars and restaurants, ATMs, shopping centers and malls, and or almost any commercial establishment where the public is invited.
Oftentimes, these crimes could have been prevented, had the property owner or managers taken reasonable measures to ensure the safety and security of visitors to the premises, depending on what the surrounding character of the area is in terms of criminal activity.
The Elements of the Negligent Security Law Suit
To successfully set forth a negligent security case, a plaintiff must prove that the named defendant owned or operated, or had control over, the property where the injury occurred; that the plaintiff was lawfully on the property when the attack or injury occurred; that the property owner owed them a certain duty of care, or should have had in place a certain level of security measures; that this duty of care was breached due to the failure to take adequate security measures which clearly contributed to the environment from which the crime arose.
In essence, the security on the property was on a level so low that it, in essence, created a breeding ground for criminal activity. We must also show that the harm was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant property owner based upon what they knew or should have known about the criminal activity in the immediate area. They cannot stick their head in the sand and be ignorant to the level and type of criminal activity in the area.
Under Maryland law, individual property owners and property managers are viewed as being in the best position to take adequate security measures to prevent or minimize foreseeable crime. When reasonable security measures are not taken, that is evidence of negligence. As these cases often deal with criminal acts, the negligence of the property owner does not have to be primary cause of harm, and the plaintiff only has to prove only that the owner’s failure to meet the duty of care was an element that increased the likelihood of danger or harm.
The duty of care varies with the level of crime in the immediate area of the property in question. So, for example in a high crime area, the duty of care, and in turn the measures that must be taken by the property owner is greater. Reference to the police crime reports and crime statistics, as well as, and an expert in the area of analyzing crime can determine whether or not appropriate security measures were in place.
A specific list of security measures that a property owner or operator must take simply doesn’t exist, as criminal activity differs from place to place. For example, owners of hotels and public transportation, are responsible for providing a higher duty of care to their patrons versus a shopping mall or gas station.
Do not let yourself be victimized twice. We have handled these cases and won. If you have been injured due to the negligent security of a property owner, please contact the Law Offices of Stuart Plotnick today.