The ins and outs of inadequate security cases and premises liability
If you’re mugged and assaulted in a convenience store parking lot in Arizona, you might be able to sue the person who mugged and assaulted you for the injuries you sustained as a result. But what about the owner of the parking lot? Can you sue them?
“Negligent security” (sometimes known as “inadequate security”) is a type of premises liability that allows a person to sue a landowner or tenant after the person is injured by the criminal act of a third party. The person may have a valid claim if the injury was foreseeable and could have been prevented by the use of reasonable safety measures.
Let’s take a closer look at negligent security claims in Arizona.
Examples of negligent security claims
Negligent security claims are generally based on the injured person’s belief that the property owner, who allowed them onto the property, failed to take some reasonable step to make certain that the property was safe. Some of the more common allegations include:
- Lack of security guards on duty
- Lack of sufficient lighting
- Lack of security cameras (or security cameras that aren’t in proper working order)
- Gates left open or locks left broken
- Failure to conduct criminal background checks of others on the premises
Let’s look at an example.
Joe owns a parking lot. The parking lot has plenty of outdoor lighting, but the light bulbs burned out months ago and Joe hasn’t bothered to replace them. One night, Makayla is mugged and assaulted while walking to her car. Makayla may choose to file a negligent security claim alleging that she wouldn’t have been mugged and assaulted if Joe had taken reasonable steps to maintain the lighting.
What must you prove in a negligent security case?
In order to establish a claim for negligent security, you must prove the following 4 elements:
1. Duty of care
First, you must prove that the owner or tenant of the property on which you were injured had a legal duty to provide you with a safe environment.
In general, owners and tenants in Arizona owe a duty to all people lawfully on their land to maintain the safety of shared spaces (i.e., areas on the land used by more than 1 person). This applies not only to physical conditions on the land, but also to dangerous activities on the land that are reasonably foreseeable.
To put it another way, if there’s a dangerous condition (such as a pothole in the ground) or a reasonably foreseeable risk of criminal activity, the owner or tenant of the land has a duty to take reasonable steps to make the land safe from that condition or criminal activity.
Second, you must prove that the owner or tenant breached their duty by failing to take reasonable steps to make the land safe (e.g., the owner failed to cover the pothole or install adequate lighting to deter criminal activity).
Third, you must prove that there’s a direct link between the owner or tenant’s actions (or inaction) and the injuries you suffered. In other words, you must show that had the owner or tenant taken reasonable steps to keep the premises safe, you wouldn’t have been injured.
Lastly, you must prove that you suffered actual damages (i.e., an injury to your body or property).
Arizona also has an innkeepers’ statute that limits the liability of innkeepers for property loss. The statute says that an innkeeper who maintains a fireproof safe and posts a sign stating that money, jewelry, documents, and other valuables can be deposited in the safe, isn’t liable for the loss of any such valuables that aren’t deposited in the safe.
In other words, if your hotel room has a sign that tells you to put your valuables in the safe but you decide to leave them on your bed instead, and the items are later stolen, then the hotel isn’t liable for your loss. This is true even if the hotel knew about a rash of recent break-ins.
For purposes of this statute, the term “innkeeper” includes owners of hotels, boarding houses, lodging houses, apartment houses, and motels.
Premises liability statute of limitations
According to Arizona statute of limitations, you have two years from the date your injury occurred to file a lawsuit for negligent security.
Negligent security damages
In Arizona, there are three basic types of damages available in a negligent security lawsuit:
- Economic damages (sometimes called “special damages”)
- Non-economic damages (sometimes called “general damages”)
- Punitive damages
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Economic damages are intended to compensate you for the monetary losses associated with your injury.
These losses might include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income due to missed work
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to your injury
Non-economic damages are designed to compensate you for the non-monetary consequences of your injury. For example, the subjective pain and suffering that you experience as a result of your injury. General damages vary from case to case, but common examples include:
Punitive damages may be awarded in negligent security cases if the defendant’s conduct was:
- Grossly negligent: conduct that’s extreme or reckless as opposed to careless or unreasonable, or
- Willful and wanton: conduct that’s intended to cause harm.
Who can be sued for negligent security in Arizona?
Negligent security cases can be complex due to the amount of potential defendants.
For example, In the case of a person assaulted in an apartment parking lot, the following parties might bear some or all of the liability:
- The apartment owner
- The property management company
- The security company
What’s more, there may be contractual relationships between all these parties that indicate who’s liable in a given situation. For this reason, most attorneys in negligent security cases will sue every person or entity that’s potentially liable and let the defendants fight amongst themselves.