In movies and TV, criminals use dark alleys to prey on their victims. Real life is much the same. Situations like burned-out security lights and dimly-lit hallways invite criminal activity, which often ends with someone getting seriously hurt.
The bar room brawl is another staple of movie and TV. On screen, no one usually gets hurt too badly. But in the real world, these brawls do not stop until someone gets severely injured.
In these cases, and in many other similar situations, the landowner may be held responsible for damages. Those include economic losses (medical bills) and non-economic losses (pain and suffering). Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in order to deter the landowner from allowing this activity again – whether that be from inactivity or actively allowing it.
In premises liability cases, most states use a common-law classification system to determine the landowner’s duty to the victim(s), which is the first element in a negligence case. The categories vary by jurisdiction, but they are:
- Invitee: If the person had express or implied permission to be on the land and the owner received an economic or noneconomic benefit, the owner has a duty to frequently inspect the premises and ensure that they are safe. Customers and renters would fall under this classification normally.
- Licensee: The permission but no benefit category includes victims like guests of hotel guests. Owners have a lesser duty, which is to warn these victims about any latent (hidden) defects, such as burned-out lights during daytime hours.
- Trespasser: Owners general have no duty towards people who have no permission and whose presence conveys no benefit. The stories about burglars who hurt themselves and sue the homeowner are urban legends.
In addition to a legal duty, the owner must know or should have known about the hazardous condition, which could be something like inadequate security at a rowdy bar. That knowledge could be direct (the proverbial “smoking gun”) or indirect.
Until recently, rape, assault, and other crime victims stood practically no chance of holding property owners responsible in these cases, even if they were clearly responsible for creating the environment that made the attack possible. Today, most states have much more victim-friendly laws. Compensation is possible if the landowner knew or should have known of the potential for a crime that hurts a person. Evidence often includes:
- Recent and similar incidents in that neighborhood,
- The inherent riskiness of the situation (e.g. a nighttime convenience store clerk), and
- Recent and similar incidents at that property location.
In many cases, the victim must be an invitee. An invitee is defined as: “[a] person [who] had express or implied permission to be on the land and the owner received an economic or noneconomic benefit.” Customers at a business and renters at an apartment complex are usually considered invitees.
If you were injured as a result of a landowner’s negligence, you should seek to hold them accountable, so contact a lawyer like a personal injury attorney Atlanta GA trusts, today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into compensation in negligent security cases.