Hotels, shopping malls, nightclubs, parking garages, college campuses and ATM kiosks should be safe places for patrons. However, assaults and other criminal activity are increasingly common.
Under California premises liability laws, such as Calif. Civil Code section 1714(a), property owners have a legal duty to ensure that their property does not pose undue risks to those who enter. This includes a duty to take reasonable steps to secure common areas against foreseeable criminal acts of third parties that are likely to occur in the absence of precautionary measures. As a result, injury victims may have legal recourse against a property owner who fails to provide a secure environment. Examples of negligent security claims include:
- Failing to employ security guards in high-crime areas
- Failing to actively monitor security cameras
- Failing to provide adequate lighting
- Failing to install proper door and window locks in dormitories, hotels and apartment buildings
To prove a negligent security claim, injury victims must generally establish that the property owner knew or should have known that there was the potential for criminal activity on the premises but failed to provide adequate security, and that failure directly resulted in injury.
In assessing the reasonableness of the property owner’s actions, California courts will balance the foreseeability of the criminal act and the burden of the proposed security measures that could have prevented it. Factors that the court will take into account include whether the property owners had notice of prior similar incidents occurring on the premises and what steps, if any, were taken to address them.