The law is clear: property owners and landlords must keep their property reasonably safe. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1. That includes providing security. For that reason, apartment complexes, hotels, and other businesses must have enough security measures in place to keep their tenants, guests, and customers reasonably safe from shootings, assaults, and other violent crime. When business owners fail to protect their customers and someone gets hurt as a result, the law permits the victim to bring a “negligent security” or “inadequate security” case against the owner. Our security negligence lawyers know how those cases work.
Apartment Complexes and Commercial Properties
Owners of apartment complexes and other commercial properties have a duty to keep their properties safe. There are basic, commonsense rules that responsible owners should follow. For example, if a gate or some other security feature is broken, the owner should fix it. If an owner or management company fails to provide security, criminals can move into the property. Without proper security, violent crimes can occur. That puts residents and customers at risk. When a resident, guest, or customer is hurt because the owner failed to provide reasonable security measures, the owner or management company can be held responsible.
Apartment complexes and restaurants are responsible for protecting residents and their guests. Nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and drug rehabilitation centers are responsible for protecting vulnerable patients. Schools and daycare facilities are responsible for protecting children from crimes by employees, visitors, or strangers. It all comes down to the same principle—reasonable steps to keep people safe.
Shootings, Robberies, and Assaults
Business owners have a responsibility to know whether their tenants, guests, or customers are safe, and to protect them from violent crimes. To assess the safety of the property, there are several steps that business owners can take. A business can appoint a safety manager to monitor crime, order a “crime grid” from the local police agency, interview tenants and employees, or speak with adjoining landowners. If the owner doesn’t know what’s happening on his or her own property, then the owner is putting his tenants, guests, or customers at risk.
Business owners have a duty to act as soon as they become aware of a threat. There are several ways in which a business owner can address a threat on commercial premises:
- Provide security measures (see below for examples) to protect customers who are not aware of the threat.
- Close the business until the threat has passed.
- Issue a warning to people who could be harmed.
Unfortunately, some business owners ignore their duty. Whether they ignore the risks they know about because they hope the risks will go away or because they’re more interested in profit than safety, business owners can be held accountable for their failure to act. If you were injured as a result of a business owner’s failure to act—whether it was a shooting, a robbery, a sexual assault, a rape, or some other violent crime—you may be able to file a negligent security claim against the owner.
In March 2016, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews won a sizeable verdict against the Nashville Marriott Hotel because the hotel failed in its duty to keep Andrews, a paying customer, reasonably safe. When her stalker, Michael David Barrett, called the hotel and asked for her room number, a hotel employee gave him the information. Barrett was able to book an adjacent room, remove the peepholes from the door, and record video footage of Andrews undressing. Barrett put the footage online, where it racked up more than 300 million views. A jury awarded Ms. Andrews $55 million, 49 percent of which must be paid by the Nashville Marriott.
Business owners have a duty to minimize foreseeable risks. When Barrett specifically asked about Ms. Andrews’ travel dates and then requested a room next to hers, someone from the hotel should have seen his behavior as a potential safety risk. Had hotel employees not given out confidential information, Barrett would not have been able to record Andrews without her knowledge and consent.
There are several security measures a business owner can take to protect customers. Gates, lights, security personnel, and surveillance cameras are all options.
- Installing video cameras to record all of the activity on the premises
- Drilling peepholes in doors
- Installing fences and gates to keep criminal perpetrators off the premises
- Implementing safety procedures and ensuring employees follow those procedures
- Implementing check-in, check-out procedures
- Hiring security guards to patrol the premises
- Putting up signs to warn customers about potential threats
- Installing extra lights in areas of concern
- Conducting background checks on tenants and employees
Representing Crime Victims
Cases against irresponsible landowners can be rewarding. These “negligent security” cases can not only help victims, but can force other property owners into doing the right thing and providing security. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a shooting, stabbing, sexual assault, or rape because some owner failed to provide enough security, call us to talk about the case.