Places Where Negligent Security Might Occur
The type of property where the plaintiff was victimized raises somewhat differing issues concerning proof of foreseeability. In addition to the above discussed factors particular types of properties have distinguishable security needs. The nature of a property thus comes with distinct foreseeability issues. Here are some of the common property type foreseeability issues that occur. The overwhelming majority of cases involve general foreseeability. That is to say the perpetrator or criminal actor was unknown to the defendant. The wrongdoer
General foreseeability is the cornerstone of most security cases. The foreseeability evidence shows that the failure to provide adequate security is negligent. In other words the jury must be convinced that the defendant knew or should have known of the risk to the plaintiff. This ultimate fact may be proved using some or all of the following types of evidence.
1. Shopping Centers
More and more these commercial and social meccas evolve with our changing way of life. Shopping centers come in all sizes from small strip centers with a handful of mom and pop merchants to super regional malls having numerous anchor stores and more than a hundred branded shops as well as local merchants. The general purpose centers have now share the marketplace with various types of specialty centers. Entertainment complexes come with multiplex cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants and bars, interactive game rooms and banquet halls. night time hours, crowd control and alcohol consumption point up some of the foreseeable risks having security implications. So called _big box centers feature large national retailers with larger open spaces between stores and activities including promotional events serving the agenda of the retailer. Outlet malls commonly bus in retirees and tourist groups. Flea markets with both permanent and itinerant vendors compact large crowds into small spaces. From large trucks to small trailers vehicles bring risks of harm to persons and property. Delivery or other areas not open to the public suggest foreseeable security problems. Promotional sales and other special events bring higher traffic to the property and thus raise specific security considerations. The most frequent place for shopping center crime is in the parking lot. The foreseeability issues are largely environmental for parking garages and open outdoor lots. What is distinctive about shopping center parking areas is the wide range of hours they may be in use and the large number of spaces available. Otherwise these parking lots are very similar to other parking facilities.
2. Apartment Buildings
The distinguishing feature of apartment building cases is that the plaintiff is usually a tenant. The common area security needs of an apartment building are analogous to public areas elsewhere. When tenants are plaintiffs some different considerations apply. First the relationship between landlord and tenant raises questions concerning the duty owed by the landlord to the tenant contrasted with other invitees. Tenants may be on a different legal footing from other persons. Statutory or contractual duties to the tenant may be greater than common law requirements for the degree of care owed the public .Such differences must be identified early on since they may shape investigation and affect pleading requirements. Whatever the standard of care may be in tenant cases the security features of the rental unit are usually in issue. First floor dwellings are different from higher floor apartments. This is so because first floor units have more risk factors than upper floor units. Security of windows, sliding doors, door locks, alarm systems, firewalls, and air conditioning ducts all suggest foreseeability questions. These and other specific characteristics of the property have direct foreseeability implications which must be considered. In apartment cases the best witnesses for foreseeability are often other tenants. Neighbors know about other crimes and criminal attempts. They are eyes and ears which record the history of what happens on the property. Police data is helpful but takes a back seat in persuasiveness compared to tenant accounts of actual experiences on the property. Often tenants can testify not only to other criminal occurrences but also to landlord_s knowledge. Actual knowledge evidence is strong proof of foreseeability. This kind of evidence is the most damning information that can be presented against a property or business owner. Just as in other types of negligence cases proof that the defendant knew is stronger than evidence that he merely should have known. Every apartment case should include tenant interviews. Invariably they help to prove the plaintiff_s case or benefit the defense case. Tenants can be perpetrators as well as victims. Background screening of prospective tenants is simple, inexpensive and widely available to landlords. Online data bases commonly have criminal background and other information available which can help predict tenant problems. Foreseeability evidence can sometimes be found based on tenant behavior after the tenancy begins. Frequent visitors, late and/or loud parties, damage to the leased premesis or common areas or antisocial behavior toward other people on the premises may be the proverbial smoke from which the proverbial fire may come.
In many respects hotel cases are like apartment cases. In addition to the similarities there are other important issues to think about which are unique to transient hospitality. First and foremost is a secure key policy. Most hotel keys are now electronic. Credit card like disposable keys are inexpensive, easy to carry, and far superior to the metal keys commonly used in the last century. Access to keys by employees requires a sound policy to protect guests. Obviously a room key in the wrong hands creates a foreseeable risk of harm to hotel guests. Virtually any policy or practice which does not secure and limit access to guest room’s forseeably subjects guests to criminal victimization. Hospitality events call up obvious security issues based on the nature of the event, expected audience, political identification, or other specific risk factors. Interaction and possible conflict between groups should be anticipated by hospitality professionals. Interfacing between hotels and other public attractions such as amusement and theme parks, shopping centers, sports stadiums and facilities, cultural venues such as museums, concert halls and convention centers hosting wide ranging events that draw interest groups with identifiable common characteristics. Thus, foreseeability implications will be found in the identity of visiting groups as potential perpetrators such as college students and as victims such as elderly tourists.
4. Public Buildings and Transportation
Government office buildings, courthouses, cultural centers, schools and universities, airports as well as private office properties have many of the same foreseeability issues which pertain to other properties and establishments discussed above. However, these buildings highlight a recent and growing security concern. As terrorism becomes more common the duty to foresee it increases. Violent political action manifested through terrorism continues to spread throughout the world including our own country. For decades the essence of the terrorist modus operandi was the unforseeability and unpredictability of where and how the strikes would occur. The very idea that terrorism could be foreseeable was itself unthinkable. To suggest that there could be civil liability for failure to foresee and ultimately prevent terrorism was sheer madness. However as time has passed, terrorism has become if not commonplace at least expected and intelligence technology has improved so that today we no longer can say terrorism cannot be foreseen. International political developments and tensions commonly heighten the foreseeable expectation of terrorist reactions. Airlines are perhaps the most affected entities. Government buildings especially foreign service operations rank close behind. calendar occasions and the emotional political events they bring back to the forefront from history represent other foreseeability barometers. Commerative events to recognize or pay homage to such historical observances surely create foreseeable security risks. Recently courts have recognized a duty to have such a heightened awareness by imposing liability for damages to victims whose safety could have been protected if the harm had been foreseen. What is foreseeable continues to evolve as does the way society shapes its response to terrorist threats.