Premises liability is something every business, be it a national chain or a small mom-and-pop business, worries about. Anytime an individual is injured on the premises of a business, a potential lawsuit may arise against both the landlord and the tenant. However, when a criminal or other third-party is the cause of the injury, then things may different.
Customers are owed the highest level of protection. When a criminal or third party intervener injures a customer, the main issue becomes if the owner had a reason to think it might happen. For instance, if a customer is robbed at gunpoint and injured, then the court will look to whether the area’s criminal history reflects that a violent crime is likely. In this example, the criminal history of the area does not necessarily have to be of frequent armed robberies, just of violent crimes. However, on the other side, many non-violent crimes would not demonstrate foreseeability. Mere trespasses, even if many, would not indicate the owner could foresee an armed robbery.
Some crimes cannot be prevented by reasonable measures, and owners might not be found liable for such crimes. For instance, some experts have regarded targeted killings as not being preventable by armed guards. Therefore, even though hiring an armed guard might prevent some crimes, an owner might not be found liable for failure to hire an armed guard even though an armed guard may have prevented some other foreseeable crimes.
Taking reasonable measures to prevent reasonably foreseeable crimes at a place of business is the duty of the owners of the business, which may be the landlord or the tenant depending on the business arrangement. This applies to businesses of all sizes. Business owners should consult with a security expert to evaluate the foreseeability of crime in the area and what measure should be taken to prevent crime on the area. It may also be advisable to hold premises liability insurance that would cover criminal activity against patrons.