Picture of R. David Sammons and R. Shannon Carpenter

Atlanta, Georgia Negligent Security Attorneys

Premises Liability: Holding a Proprietor Liable for Failing to Provide Adequate Security

Generally speaking, there are two types of premises liability that a landowner or leaseholder may face for injuries occurring on his or her property. The first is where a dangerous condition exists on the property itself, and the proprietor has failed to take adequate precautions to prevent foreseeable harm caused by that dangerous condition. The second is where a landowner may be held liable to a plaintiff for harm caused by the reckless or intentional criminal conduct of a third party. This latter type of premises liability claim is referred to as negligent security liability.

As a general rule, Georgia law holds that an owner or occupier of land owes a duty to keep its premises safe, so that invitees—that is, customers and others invited onto the property—are free from foreseeable criminal acts. For most types of negligence liability, criminal conduct of a third party is usually seen as a superseding event which breaks the chain of causation between a plaintiff and a defendant. Negligent security premises liability is an exception to that principle. Negligent security premises liability places upon owners and occupiers of land a greater duty to their invitees to protect them not only from their own negligent conduct, but from the criminal acts of others that cause personal injury.

As a practical matter, negligent security premises liability cases often arise with respect to apartment buildings, motels, parking garages, shopping centers and similar businesses where there are unsupervised areas of the premises, and where criminals may easily evade detection in public spaces hidden from the proprietor’s (or an employee’s) view. A typical case might be where an apartment dweller was assaulted by a criminal in his or her apartment, and he or she contends that the landlord failed to provide secure fencing or locked gates in a neighborhood where criminal conduct is common or where prior incidents had put the landlord on notice that harm from criminal conduct was likely to recur.

Typically, negligent security cases allege that the owner or occupier failed to take one or more of the following steps, without which the criminal would not have been able to perpetrate the crime that caused the harm:

  • Inadequate security lighting or failure to maintain adequate lighting;
  • Failure to provide a security patrol or adequate security patrols;
  • Inadequate or faulty gates, doors, fencing, or locks;
  • Failure to install or to adequately place or monitor security cameras;
  • Failure to respond to a security alert; or
  • Failure to adequately warn of the potential for danger.
Negligent Security Premises Liability Law in Georgia

Negligent security liability tends to be one of the more volatile areas of tort law nationwide, and Georgia is no exception. For example, one area of Georgia law that is currently unsettled with respect to negligent security is the question of apportioning damages. Generally, when multiple parties are responsible for an injury caused by negligence, a jury may allocate portions of the liability attributable to each responsible party, and divide any damage award accordingly (even when the plaintiff is partially responsible for his own injury). However, there are several Georgia cases that conflict with one another as to whether and how apportionment should apply in negligent security cases between a landowner and a criminal. Until the Georgia Supreme Court or the Georgia state legislature resolves these questions, the law in a particular case will be somewhat unpredictable.

Clearly, negligent security liability is a means for plaintiffs to go after “deep pockets” to obtain recovery, since plaintiffs are unlikely to recover any damages from criminal defendants in civil actions. In addition, it may seem unfair to hold individuals liable for the criminal acts of unrelated third parties (that is, this is not a case where a corporation, for example, may be held vicariously liable for an employee or other party that is acting directly under their control and supervision). At the same time, public policy favors a rule in which landowners and leaseholders are required to undertake reasonable precautions to prevent criminal conduct from occurring on their own property, and to bear legal responsibility for failure to do so.

Given the many competing policy considerations that come into play in negligent security cases, courts and juries often have difficulty wrestling with the degree of liability that should attach in a particular situation. In a given case, it is very often difficult to determine with any degree of assurance whether any specific security measure, alleged by the plaintiff to have been lacking, would have been able to prevent the harm in question from occurring, or that a landowner should have known that the steps he may have taken were insufficient as a matter of law, even if, in hindsight, it is clear that some action might have prevented the crime in question.

As a result of all these competing policy considerations, negligent security cases are very fact-specific, and the law is constantly evolving. In retaining an Atlanta inadequate security attorney to represent you in a negligent security case, it is essential that you find an attorney who fully understands the different factors that may affect the outcome in pursuing a negligent security claim, and who will keep you informed of legal developments as they occur in your case and in other cases with similar issues at stake.

If You Have Been Injured on Another Person’s Property Through a Criminal Act, Our Atlanta Inadequate Security Lawyers May Be Able to Help You

If you or a loved one are the victim of a crime that occurs on another person’s property, and that criminal act results in physical injury or death, you may be able to recover damages in Georgia under the theory of negligent security premises liability. While this area of the law is constantly changing, our experienced negligent security liability lawyers can help you to evaluate the likelihood of obtaining recovery based on the most current Georgia statutes and cases.

If you would like to consult one of our Atlanta, Georgia, premises liability attorneys regarding negligent security, contact us directly at (404) 991-5950, or use our confidential online case evaluation form right here on this site for a free, no-obligation consultation. If we agree to take your case, you will not be charged any legal fees unless and until we are able to recover damages on your behalf. When you need a reliable, qualified Atlanta negligent security attorney to help you pursue a negligent security claim, call Sammons & Carpenter, P.C.

Copyright © 2012 by Sammons & Carpenter, P.C. All Rights Reserved