Premises Liability for Inadequate Security

When a crime occurs on private property, or where an injury occurs that might have been avoided with the presence of security personnel or a larger security force, the premises owner may find itself accused of violating its duties to the injured person through a failure to provide adequate security.

A claim for compensation for an injury made on the basis of the defendant's ownership or control of property is known as a premises liability claim.

When accused of providing inadequate security, the potential liability of the owner or person in control of the premises can vary significantly based on the facts of the claim and the governing state law.

  • Premises owners should discuss their potential liability with their insurance agents when purchasing liability coverage and assessing the amount of coverage they require.
  • Any person who is injured due to what appears to be inadequate security should have his or her case evaluated by a lawyer in the state where the injury occurred.

What is an Inadequate Security Claim

Claims of inadequate security can arise in the context of a crime against an individual, such as a sexual assault or robbery, or for property crime, such as the burglary of a car parked in a parking lot. Claims may also arise in the context of a special event, such as a concert, where there is inadequate crowd control.

Due to the nature of the business or the history of problems on the premises, certain types of businesses may be accused of having inadequate security if a predictable problem occurs (such as a bar fight in a rowdy bar) but security is insufficient to respond effectively to the danger posed to patrons.

Security can be a particular concern in contexts where populations of vulnerable people are present on the premises, as occurs within a hospital or nursing home, or where people are limited in their ability to leave or to get outside help, as with passengers on a cruise ship.

Claims may also arise due to the condition of the physical premises. A premises owner who fails to properly maintain doors, locks, gates, fences, and other security devices might be accused of putting patrons, tenants, hotel guests, or other visitors at risk by increasing the prospect of criminal activity on the premises.

Allegations might be premises upon overgrown vegetation or inadequate nighttime illumination that creates points of vulnerability where passersby could be accosted by a criminal.

Claims of inadequate security can be based upon the amount of security provided by person in control of the premises, but at times may focus on whether the security staff was hired, trained and supervised in an adequate manner.

General Rules of Liability

The rules for premises liability and inadequate security claims vary between states. Some states are far more restrictive of when an inadequate security case may be sustained, while others impose higher standards on a property owner or person in control of the premises. In broad terms, an inadequate security claim will attempt to prove negligence:

  1. Duty: The defendant owned a duty of care to the injured plaintiff;

  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant was negligent or reckless in its care and control of the premises, whether by action or inaction;

  3. Injury: The plaintiff suffered an injury; and

  4. Causation: The injury was proximately caused by the defendant's breach of duty.

Defenses to Inadequate Security Claims

The defense of an inadequate security claim will often involve a considerable focus on duty: whether the defendant had a duty to provide more security, or a duty to provide any security at all, to the plaintiff. In most cases, the criminal act of a third party will not be attributed to the premises owner. There must be additional facts or circumstances, such as a history of similar crimes on the premises, before the premises owner may potentially be held liable for injuries that result from a third party's criminal act.

The defense is also likely to challenge causation and the foreseeability of injury, arguing that its security measures were adequate for any reasonably foreseeable danger, or that the alleged insufficiency or lack of security did not contribute to the plaintiff's injury.

As claims of inadequate security are highly dependent on the facts and upon state law, it is a good idea for any person who believes that they suffered injury as a result of insufficient or inadequate security to consult a lawyer in the state where the injury occurred.

Copyright © 2015 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on May 8, 2018.