Negligent Security FAQs

  • Can an injured innocent bystander sue the owner of a bar for negligent security over fight that occurs in the bar?
    • In Florida, a claim for negligent security almost always arises when a party suffers injury or harm due to the failure of another party to provide adequate security measures on its property or premises. Florida law requires certain parties, such as owners of apartment complexes, shopping malls, office buildings, and bars to provide minimum levels of security to help ensure the safety of patrons, guests, and employees. Each and every owner of a bar, saloon, or tavern in the state of Florida has a responsibility to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. If an owner knows, or should know, that its patrons tend to act "rowdy" or get out of control while upon its premises, then that owner has a responsibility to provide adequate security in order to attempt to ensure the safety of its guests. Adequate security can consist of competent bouncers or other personnel employed or contracted to try to prevent any fights, outbreaks, or other violent incidents which may cause injuries to innocent bystanders.

      The most important issue that needs to be resolved in answering our question here is whether the harm suffered by the innocent bystander was foreseeable by the owner of the bar. If the answer is determined to be in the affirmative, the bar owner will likely be held liable for the injuries. One way to establish foreseeability is to show that the bar owner or its employees knew that a particular individual was a dangerous person, i.e., the individual had caused problems in the past at the bar or had a violent criminal record. However, as the Florida Supreme Court has instructed, that is not the only way to show that the harm suffered was foreseeable. See Stevens v. Jefferson, 436 So. 2d 33 (Fla. 1983). In Stevens, the Court held that a bar owner was liable to a widow after her husband was shot and killed in the owner’s bar, despite the fact that the owner was not aware that the shooter had dangerous propensities. The Court reasoned that the bar owner was liable based on the fact that the bar was known as a "rough" place, the owner had terminated his security service, and had failed to equip or train his employees to maintain order in the bar despite the fact that there had been numerous prior shootings therein.

      A bar owner is bound to use every reasonable effort to maintain order among his patrons, employees, or others who come upon his premises and are likely to produce disorder which would injure or inconvenience those patrons lawfully present. In most circumstances, if a bar owner fails to provide such security, that owner becomes liable to persons injured as a result of violence which occurs as a result, regardless of whether the wrongdoer himself was known to be a violent individual.

      Negligent security is a very specialized legal area. The facts of each case, along with the laws, regulations, and statutes of limitation which those facts are subject to can drastically alter both your rights, and any recovery to which you might be entitled. You are not expected to know the ins and outs necessary to determine whether you might be entitled to damages, which is why it is imperative that you consult an attorney who specializes in negligent security claims.

  • Can I sue an apartment building owner for negligent security for a rape that occurred?
    • The owner of an apartment complex has the responsibility to provide security once they are put on notice that a dangerous condition exists on the property. If a prior rape, robbery, or other violent crime has occurred on the property, then the property owner has the responsibility to either warn its tenants and invitees, or make the property safer. And, yes, a lawsuit can be filed in those instances. Apartment owners are under an even stricter obligation to provide a safe premises than are other Florida property owners.

      In Florida, a property owner must maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for use by its invitees and warn its invitees of any dangerous condition on the property of which the invitee might not be aware. In most cases, if the court finds that the property owner should have reasonably foreseen the subject harm based on previous incidents on the property, the property owner will be held liable for the harm. In most cases, foreseeability can be shown by demonstrating that prior similar crimes occurred on the property, or that the property was located in a high crime area. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). However, apartment complex owners are bound by an even stricter duty due to the contractual relationship they share with their tenants, and therefore, showing the prior dissimilar crimes have occurred at the complex might be enough to impose liability on the owner. See The Florida Bar Journal, Premises Liability: A Notable Rift in the Law of Foreseeable Crimes, Wilton H. Strickland, Volume 83, No. 11, Dec. 2009. There is a tendency under Florida law to uphold the rights of tenants to recover damages for criminal attacks on leased premises, independent of whether or not prior similar incidents had occurred on the property. See Paterson v. Deeb, 472 So. 2d 1210, 1215 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). Florida law imposes a duty on the apartment complex’s owner to inspect its property for dangerous conditions so that it is able to either fix those conditions, or at least warn its tenants of them so the tenants can avoid being injured. Although it is not absolutely required, most owners are under an indirect obligation to provide such things as adequate lighting, security cameras, gates and/or fencing, and even security guards.

      If you or a loved one has been injured at your leased apartment premises, there may be a chance that you are owed money. It is crucial that you contact an attorney who is experienced in the area of negligent security, and not just any attorney, in order to ensure that you recover all of the money that you might be owed. The laws regarding this area of law are complex. Let the experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles navigate those complexities for you.

  • Can I sue if I was a victim of an assault and battery during an armed robbery in a shopping center parking lot?
    • Crime statistics reveal that parking lots are one of the most dangerous locations in any commercial enterprise. Absolutely, a person who is injured by a battery during an armed robbery can file a lawsuit against the landowner if there have been other crimes occurring in that location prior to the battery that caused injuries.

      In Florida, landowners owe duties of care to their visitors (unless that "visitor" is actually a trespasser). This is especially so when the landowner is also a business owner, and the people visiting the property are there for the mutual benefit of that business, and themselves. With very few exceptions, the bottom line is as long as you are not unlawfully trespassing upon its premises, a business owner owes you the duty of maintaining a reasonably safe environment. When you are in a shopping center parking lot as a customer of that shopping center, you are considered a "licensee" of that business, because you are there for a purpose related to that business(es)’ function(s). See Post v. Lunney, 261 So. 2d 146 (Fla. 1972). The Florida Bar provides a helpful table explaining each category into which a visitor can fall, as well as the duties owed to each. While a landowner must only refrain from willfully harming a trespasser, it owes invitees and invited licensees the duties of: maintaining a reasonably safe premises, inspecting the property for dangerous conditions and either fixing them, or warning its guests as to their existence, and safeguarding its guests against foreseeable crimes committed by third parties. In Florida, such a crime is reasonably foreseeable if the business owner knows of the specific third party’s inclination toward criminal activity or if there is evidence of past crime in the area. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). Therefore, as mentioned above, because parking lots are often dangerous places, landowners are obligated to implement all reasonable measures to make their property reasonably safe. Such measures include providing adequate lighting, fencing, security, and signage.

      Banks and ATM’s, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, parking lots, and apartment buildings are only some of the properties which are often inadequately protected by their owners. If you feel that you have suffered harm while upon the property of another, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. It is important to remember that property owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on another’s property does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. The experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles will help you determine if you can recover for your particular injury.

  • Do all property owners have a duty to provide exterior lighting in the common areas of the property?
    • Not necessarily. Every property in the United States is governed by a code ordinance pertaining to its particular locale. If the code governing a particular piece of property requires a certain standard for exterior lighting, and someone is injured as a result of a violation of the code because the property owner did not provide adequate lighting, then the property owner would be liable as a result of violating that statute. In Florida, a property owner must maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for use by its guests and employees (a property owner owes no such duty to an unlawful trespasser). If the harm suffered by a visitor is determined to have been "foreseeable," the property owner will likely be held responsible for the harm. It is therefore crucial that a Florida property owner inspect its property for dangerous conditions and repair those conditions, warn its guests of hidden dangers on the property which the guests might not be aware of, and safeguard visitors against foreseeable third-party crimes. One way that a property owner can provide those safeguards, is by maintaining adequate exterior lighting.

      If a property owner either knows the subject criminal, or knows that its property is located in a high crime area, the harm that you suffer will likely be deemed to be foreseeable. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). If other robberies, murders, rapes, etc. had previously occurred in the area, the landowner is required to provide reasonably adequate security to prevent such things from happening again. Property owners can provide such security by installing sufficient lighting and/or security cameras, keeping bushes and hedges properly maintained, using locks and alarm systems, and hiring security guards. Due to the fact that providing exterior lighting is one of the most cost-effective options, property owners face a high risk by not providing adequate lighting.

      Although exterior lighting does not always determine the outcome of a negligent security lawsuit, the courts will usually always consider the issue. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 377 So. 2d 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979). In that case, a wife sued a bank after her husband was kidnapped from the bank’s parking lot, robbed, and then murdered. The court originally determined that the wife had failed to state a cause of action because the crime occurred in the daytime, making lighting adequacy a non-issue. However, after the wife amended her complaint to add evidence that the bank was indeed located in a high crime area, that prior similar incidents had in fact occurred, and that the subject bank provided less protection than other banks in the area, the court reversed its decision. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 400 So. 2d 569 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).

      Banks and ATM’s, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, parking lots, and apartment buildings are only some of the properties which are often inadequately protected by their owners. It is not uncommon to walk into or out of these places feeling endangered due to the surrounding darkness. If you feel that you have suffered harm while upon the property of another, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. It is important to remember that property owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on another’s property does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. The experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles will help you determine if you can recover for your particular injury.

  • Does a business owner have a duty to screen prospective employees and perform a criminal background search?
    • Business owners have a responsibility to know who their employees are if they are allowing them to have contact with the public. In Florida, a business owner is deemed to have "constructive notice" of the criminal history of its employees. Therefore, while performing a criminal background check is not necessary per se, if it is later determined that performing that check would have revealed the dangerous propensity of an employee, the employer will likely be liable for the harm the employee caused. The law will effectively treat the employer as though it had performed a background check, but nevertheless, allowed the dangerous employee to interact with its patrons, and the community.

      Florida recognizes a cause of action against an employer for negligent hiring when its employee causes harm to a third party. See Garcia v. Duffy, 492 So. 2d 435 (Fla. 2d DCA 1986). "Negligent hiring occurs when, prior to the time the employee is actually hired, the employer knew or should have known of the employee’s unfitness, and the issue of liability primarily focuses upon the adequacy of the employer’s pre-employment investigation into the employee’s background." Id. at 438. Simply put, if an employer does not use reasonable care in researching its prospective employees, and using such care would have revealed that an employee would be dangerous, the employer will face liability. However, Florida law also provides employers with an accessible means of satisfying the burden of due diligence. A Florida employer is presumed to not have been negligent in its hiring of an employee if the employer conducts a background investigation prior to hiring an employee and the investigation does not reveal that the person is unsuitable for employment. See Fla. Stat. 768.096 (2014). A compliant background investigation must include either obtaining a criminal background investigation, interviewing the employee himself or previous employers as to his suitability for employment, asking the employee to answer questions about any previous criminal history in his employment application, or obtaining consent to run a report on the employee’s driver’s license. Id. If sought, the criminal background investigation must be obtained from the Department of Law Enforcement, and include the information reflected in the Florida Crime Information Center system.

      In most cases, Florida law prohibits state and local governments from refusing to issue professional licenses and/or permits to an individual based on his prior conviction(s). This provides further incentive for prospective employees to be forthcoming about their previous criminal history. The balancing of the laws governing the hiring of employees, and the harm caused to third persons by employees, is a complex task. If you feel that you have been the victim of an employer’s negligent hiring, contact an experienced attorney immediately.

  • Does a property owner have a duty to know about ongoing criminal activity in his property and surrounding area?
    • All property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. Knowing about crimes which have occurred on the property, or in the surrounding community is a part of that duty. If the property owner fails to make itself aware of the level of crime which is occurring in the community in which the property is situated, then they it may be held liable for any damages or injuries which occur on their property as a result of a failure to provide adequate security.

      The determination of whether a property owner is liable for negligence is almost always one that is based on whether the harm suffered was foreseeable. If the court determines that the landowner should have reasonably foreseen that the subject harm could occur on its premises, the landowner will likely be held liable to the injured party. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the landowner to inspect its property for dangerous conditions and repair those conditions, warn its guests of any hidden dangers on the property which the guests might not be aware of, and safeguard its visitors against foreseeable third-party crimes. In Florida, a crime is reasonably foreseeable if the property owner knows of the specific third party’s inclination toward criminal activity or if the property is located in an area where there is a history of crime. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). Therefore, if a property owner is unfamiliar with the past criminal activity in its location, it increases the risk that it will have to pay money to a third party who is injured by criminal activity. Basically, it boils down to common sense – if an area has a history of significant crime, it becomes more likely that innocent visitors upon that property will be harmed by criminal activity in the future unless preventative measures are taken by the landowner. Such measures might include lighting, alarm systems, cameras, or fencing. If other violent crimes – robberies, murders, rapes, etc. – have previously occurred in the area, the landowner is required to provide further safety measures, which could include hiring a security company to monitor the area.

      Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal has illustrated a particularly tragic example of the interplay between negligent security and foreseeable crime. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 377 So. 2d 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979). In that case, a wife sued a bank after her husband was kidnapped from the bank’s parking lot, robbed, and then murdered. After the wife amended her complaint to add evidence that the bank was indeed located in a high crime area and that the subject bank provided less protection than other banks in the area, the court held that the wife had successfully pled negligence against the bank. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 400 So. 2d 569 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).

      Banks and ATM’s, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, parking lots, and apartment buildings are only some of the properties which are often inadequately protected by their owners. If you feel that you have suffered harm while upon the property of another, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. It is important to remember that property owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on another’s property does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. The experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles will help you determine if you can recover for your particular injury.

  • Does a property owner have a duty to provide security guards?
    • Not necessarily. In Florida, a property owner owes a duty to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for use by its visitors, business licensees, and employees. The determination of whether a property owner is liable for negligence is almost always one that is based on whether the harm suffered was foreseeable. If the court determines that the landowner should have reasonably foreseen that the subject harm could occur on its premises, the landowner will likely be held liable to the injured party. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the landowner to inspect its property for dangerous conditions and repair those conditions, warn its guests of any hidden dangers on the property which the guests might not be aware of, and safeguard its visitors against foreseeable third-party crimes. It is important to remember, a property owner owes no such duties to a person who trespasses upon the land unlawfully.

      In Florida, a crime is reasonably foreseeable if the property owner knows of the specific third party’s inclination toward criminal activity or if the property is located in an area where there is a history of crime. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). Therefore, if a property owner is unfamiliar with the criminal himself, the owner will not be liable for effects of the crime unless past criminal activity in the surrounding area puts the owner on notice that crime is reasonably expected to occur again. If other robberies, murders, rapes, etc. had previously occurred in the area, the landowner is required to provide reasonably adequate security to prevent it from happening again. A landowner can provide such security by installing sufficient lighting and/or security cameras, keeping bushes and hedges properly maintained, using locks and alarm systems, and hiring security guards; however, that does not mean that security guards are necessarily required, especially if providing them is cost prohibitive.

      Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal has illustrated a particularly tragic example of the interplay between negligent security and foreseeable crime. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 377 So. 2d 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979). In that case, a wife sued a bank after her husband was kidnapped from the bank’s parking lot, robbed, and then murdered. The court originally determined that because there was no evidence of prior similar incidents, and because the adequacy of the lighting of the parking lot was a non-issue due to it being daytime, the bank was not liable to the widow. However, after the wife amended her complaint to add evidence that the bank was indeed located in a high crime area, that prior similar incidents had in fact occurred, and that the subject bank provided less protection than other banks in the area, the court reversed its decision, and held that the wife had successfully pled negligence against the bank. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 400 So. 2d 569 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).

      Banks and ATM’s, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, parking lots, and apartment buildings are only some of the properties which are often inadequately protected by their owners. If you feel that you have suffered harm while upon the property of another, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. It is important to remember that property owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on another’s property does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. The experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles will help you determine if you can recover for your particular injury.

  • How can a business owner provide a reasonably safe environment?
    • In Florida, landowners (and business owners as the case may be) owe duties to visitors on their land in accordance with the visitor’s legal status. If a visitor trespasses upon the land, a landowner owes no duty to provide a reasonably safe environment. However, if the visitor is invited upon the land, the landowner is bound by several unavoidable duties. Suffice it to say, as long as you are not unlawfully trespassing upon its premises, a business owner owes you the duty of maintaining a reasonably safe environment.

      As the Florida Supreme Court has explained, visitors upon the private property of another, fall into three broad categories: invitees, licensees, or trespassers. See Post v. Lunney, 261 So. 2d 146 (Fla. 1972). A "licensee" can be considered either a "public" or "business" licensee, depending on whether he is present on the property for a purpose related to the business’ function, i.e., whether the business owner received some type of benefit by the visitor’s presence. Id. at 148. The Florida Bar provides a helpful table explaining each category and the duties owed by landowners to members of those categories. In short, while a landowner must only refrain from willfully harming a trespasser, it owes invitees and invited licensees the duties of: maintaining a reasonably safe premises, inspecting the property for dangerous conditions and either fixing them, or warning its guests as to their existence, and safeguarding its guests against foreseeable crimes committed by third parties. In Florida, such a crime is reasonably foreseeable if the business owner knows of the specific third party’s inclination toward criminal activity. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). However, where a novel third party commits a crime, the Florida district courts are divided as to whether a landowner will be held responsible for any harm caused to its patrons as a result of that criminal activity.

      It is important to remember that business owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on a business owner’s premises does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. However, recognizing the stringent safety requirements that business owners face, law enforcement throughout the United States provides aid to help ensure that such owners satisfy their legal obligations. The first step for any business owner attempting to provide a reasonably safer environment is to be proactive instead of reactive. Every local police department in the country provides security training and/or threat analysis to any property owner, for free. A business owner can call the local police department, and have them give them what is called a security survey. A security survey will outline the business’ security deficiencies, and will often times, illuminate the existence of shortcomings that were previously unbeknownst to the business owner. If you feel that you have suffered harm as a result of a business owner’s negligence, it is imperative that you contact an experienced negligent security attorney right away.

  • Does a property owner have a duty to screen prospective tenants and perform a criminal background search?
    • Property owners who engage in renting or leasing real property to tenants in Florida have a duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, which includes reasonably ensuring that tenants are not harmed by other tenants. If a tenant with a criminal history commits a crime and/or causes harm to another tenant, the court will be much more likely to find that the harm was foreseeable than if it was caused by a tenant without a criminal history. In those cases, the property owner will likely be found to have had what is called "constructive notice" of the tenant’s propensity for criminal activity. For that reason, most if not all Florida landlords, conduct criminal background checks on prospective tenants so that they know is moving into the rental property. If a property owner fails to investigate any tenant on its property and a reasonable investigation into that tenant’s background would have revealed that he or she posed a threat to the other tenants at the property, then the property owner could be held liable for failing to do a background check and check of that person’s criminal history.

      Although refusing to rent to a convicted felon is technically "discrimination," it is not unlawful. Being a convicted felon does not place a person inside of any protected class for purposes of anti-discrimination laws, and a landlord in Florida has no obligation to rent to any person that it chooses not to, as long as it does not engage in illegal discrimination. In that sense, a tenant with a criminal history is in a much different place than a prospective employee with the same history. In most cases, Florida law prohibits state and local governments from refusing to issue professional licenses and/or permits to an individual based on his prior conviction(s). This provides further incentive for prospective employees to be forthcoming about their previous criminal history. Prospective tenants, for that very reason, are often not as forthcoming, and that requires the landlord to be even more scrupulous. If sought, criminal background investigations can be obtained from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

      Criminal background checks are not, per se, required, but practically speaking, they are necessary. If a landlord fails to conduct its due diligence, and allows a criminal sex offender or convicted murderer to live at the property, for instance, any harm that the tenant causes at the property will very likely be the landlord’s responsibility.

      Apartment buildings, condominiums, parking lots, and other similar locations are only some of the properties which are often inadequately protected by their owners. If you feel that you have suffered harm at the hands of a fellow tenant, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. It is important to remember that property owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on another’s property does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. The experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles will help you determine if you can recover for your particular injury.

  • Must a property owner warn prospective tenants of past criminal activity in the apartment building or surrounding area?
    • If a property owner is aware of past criminal activity, on the property or in the surrounding area, then the owner has a responsibility to either warn the tenants so that they may protect themselves or to provide adequate and reasonable security measures for the protections of all visitors and lawful visitors to the property. The reasoning behind putting that responsibility on the owner comes down to the issue of foreseeability. If it is reasonably foreseeable that something, such as criminal activity, might occur which might cause harm to its guests or tenants, then a property owner is usually going to be held responsible for that harm.

      In Florida, a crime is reasonably foreseeable if the property owner knows of the specific third party’s inclination toward criminal activity or if the property is located in an area where there is a history of crime. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). Therefore, if a property owner is unfamiliar with the criminal himself, the owner will not be liable for effects of the crime unless past criminal activity in the surrounding area puts the owner on notice that crime is reasonably expected to occur again. If other robberies, murders, rapes, etc. had previously occurred in the area or on that property the landowner is required to provide reasonably adequate security to prevent it from happening again. In cases involving apartment buildings, landlords as property owners owe their tenants the utmost standard of care and are obligated to provide a premises which is reasonably safe for living. A landowner can provide such security by installing sufficient lighting and/or security cameras, keeping bushes and hedges properly maintained, using locks and alarm systems, and hiring security guards; however, that does not mean that security guards are necessarily required, especially if providing them is cost prohibitive.

      Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal has illustrated a particularly tragic example of the interplay between negligent security and foreseeable crime. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 377 So. 2d 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979). In that case, a wife sued a bank after her husband was kidnapped from the bank’s parking lot, robbed, and then murdered. The court originally determined that because there was no evidence of prior similar incidents, and because the adequacy of the lighting of the parking lot was a non-issue due to it being daytime, the bank was not liable to the widow. However, after the wife amended her complaint to add evidence that the bank was indeed located in a high crime area, that prior similar incidents had in fact occurred, and that the subject bank provided less protection than other banks in the area, the court reversed its decision, and held that the wife had successfully pled negligence against the bank. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 400 So. 2d 569 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).

      Banks and ATM’s, gas stations, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, parking lots, and apartment buildings are only some of the properties which are often inadequately protected by their owners. If you feel that you have suffered harm while upon the property of another, it is imperative that you contact an attorney right away. It is important to remember that property owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on another’s property does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. The experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles will help you determine if you can recover for your particular injury.

  • I was attacked in a dark parking lot. Is the owner responsible for my injuries and damages?
    • That depends. If you were attacked in a dark parking lot, and the darkness is well below the standard in that location or in that municipality, then the property owner would be liable. However, if the property is an older property, and there once existed an ordinance into which the property is now grandfathered, then the property owner may not be liable. That’s why it would always be advisable to seek an attorney in order to determine whether or not the property is responsible for the injuries that have occurred. Although exterior lighting does not always determine the outcome of a negligent security lawsuit, the courts will usually always consider the issue. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 377 So. 2d 1013 (Fla. 2d DCA 1979). In that case, a wife sued a bank after her husband was kidnapped from the bank’s parking lot, robbed, and then murdered. The court originally determined that the wife had failed to state a cause of action because the crime occurred in the daytime, making lighting adequacy a non-issue. However, after the wife amended her complaint to add evidence that the bank was indeed located in a high crime area, that prior similar incidents had in fact occurred, and that the subject bank provided less protection than other banks in the area, the court reversed its decision. See Drake v. Sun Bank & Trust Co. of St. Petersburg, 400 So. 2d 569 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981).

      In Florida, landowners (and business owners as the case may be) owe duties to visitors on their land in accordance with the visitor’s legal status. As the Florida Supreme Court has explained, visitors upon the private property of another, fall into three broad categories: invitees, licensees, or trespassers. See Post v. Lunney, 261 So. 2d 146 (Fla. 1972). The Florida Bar provides a helpful table explaining each category and the duties owed by landowners to members of those categories. In short, while a landowner must only refrain from willfully harming a trespasser, it owes invitees and invited licensees the duties of: maintaining a reasonably safe premises, inspecting the property for dangerous conditions and either fixing them, or warning its guests as to their existence, and safeguarding its guests against foreseeable crimes committed by third parties. In Florida, such a crime is reasonably foreseeable if the business owner knows of the specific third party’s inclination toward criminal activity, or if the area is one with a history of prior criminal activity. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984).

      It is important to remember that business owners are not insurers, and every type of harm suffered on a business owner’s premises does not necessarily give rise to a legal action. However, recognizing the stringent safety requirements that business owners face, law enforcement throughout the United States provides aid to help ensure that such owners satisfy their legal obligations. The first step for any business owner attempting to provide a reasonably safer environment is to be proactive instead of reactive. Every local police department in the country provides security training and/or threat analysis to any property owner, for free. A business owner can call the local police department, and have them give them what is called a security survey. A security survey will outline the business’ security deficiencies, and will often times, illuminate the existence of shortcomings that were previously unbeknownst to the business owner. If you feel that you have suffered harm as a result of a business owner’s negligence, it is imperative that you contact an experienced negligent security attorney right away.

  • Can I sue an apartment building owner for wrongful death over a killing that occurred in the apartment parking lot?
    • The short answer is, maybe. All Florida property owners have the duty to provide security once they are put on notice that a dangerous condition exists on the property. If a prior rape, robbery, or other violent crime has occurred on the property, then the property owner has the responsibility to either warn its tenants and invitees, or make the property safer. Owners of apartment complexes are under an even stricter obligation to provide a safe premises than are other Florida property owners, because they enter into contractual agreements with their tenants which guarantee the tenants’ rights to a reasonably safe premises. See Vazquez v. Lago Grande Homeowners Ass’n, 900 So. 2d 587, 593 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004).

      In Florida, a property owner must maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition for use by its invitees and warn its invitees of any dangerous condition on the property of which the invitee might not be aware. In most cases, if the court finds that the property owner should have reasonably foreseen the subject harm based on previous incidents on the property, the property owner will be held liable for the harm. Foreseeability can be shown by demonstrating that prior similar crimes occurred on the property, or that the property was located in a high crime area. See Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 760 (Fla. 1984). However, apartment complex owners are bound by an even stricter duty, and therefore, even a showing that prior dissimilar crimes have occurred at the complex might be enough to impose liability on the owner. See The Florida Bar Journal, Premises Liability: A Notable Rift in the Law of Foreseeable Crimes, Wilton H. Strickland, Volume 83, No. 11, Dec. 2009. There is a tendency under Florida law to uphold the rights of tenants to recover damages for criminal attacks on leased premises, independent of whether or not prior similar incidents had occurred on the property. See Paterson v. Deeb, 472 So. 2d 1210, 1215 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985). Therefore, if someone is killed in the apartment complex’s parking lot, and there had not been a previous violent crime committed there, the apartment complex owner might still be liable for the harm suffered. Florida law imposes a duty on the apartment complex’s owner to inspect its property for dangerous conditions so that it is able to either fix those conditions, or at least warn its tenants of them so the tenants can avoid being injured. Although it is not absolutely required, most owners are under an indirect obligation to provide such things as adequate lighting, security cameras, gates and/or fencing, and even security guards.

      In the tragic event that you or a loved one has been involved in a wrongful death which occurred at a leased apartment premises, there may be a chance that you are owed money. It is crucial that you contact an attorney who is experienced in the area of negligent security, and not just any attorney, in order to ensure that you recover all of the money that you might be owed. The laws regarding this area of law are complex. Let the experienced negligent security attorneys at Rosenthal, Levy, Simon & Ryles navigate those complexities for you.

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  • I was injured at work directly due to poor management decisions. I worked as a lifeguard and a child that was in the care of the day care facility on the campus ran away. He was in immediate danger. I… Shona M.
  • I have recommended Jonathan Levy and his law firm to my friends and one of them became his client. I am truly grateful for everything Jonathan Levy and his team have done on my behalf. He is truly a wonderful attorney. Faithe C.
  • Much to my surprise not only did they win my lawsuit but I ended up getting 3 times the original amount I was expecting to get! I could not have been more pleased with the staff and the outcome. Allison M.
  • If it wasn’t for your help, I know I wouldn’t have been able to win my case. I know that it was far away for you to come to Miami but your professionalism was outstanding. I will always recommend you. Maria W.
  • You might say you were even just doing your job, however, I think it’s essential that you realize how fortunate I am to have such a trusted esteemed attorney in my corner, blessed really. Anonymous
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