Negligent Security and When a Property Owner can be Liable

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
November 26, 2019

Under the law of premises liability, property owners have a duty to keep people they invite into a building or onto land safe from harm. This can extend to negligent security, which is a failure to protect people from crime.

In some cases, people who became victims of crimes at malls, apartments, and colleges successfully sued owners or managers over assaults committed on them.

However, there are limits to negligent security. The owners or operators of buildings must be found to be at fault for a lack of security or a failure.

Virginia sets a high standard for negligent security claims. The attack victim must show there was a high probability of harm due to previous incidents. The owner or manager of a property must have been aware of the dangers but failed to make the environment safer.

Who can Face Negligent Security Lawsuits?

A number of parties can be sued for negligent security. These cases may be brought against:

  • Shopping mall owners or management when security is lax or non-existent;
  • University and college authorities for rapes or other attacks on campuses;
  • Nightclub owners or operators;
  • Owners and management companies of apartment complexes;
  • Owners and operators or restaurants and hotels;
  • Nursing home and assisted living facility owners;
  • Owners and operators of daycare facilities;

Reasons for Negligent Security Lawsuits

Common reasons for negligent security lawsuits include the following:

  • A lack of security in areas like shopping malls;
  • Undertrained or inadequate staffing;
  • A lack of security cameras or other surveillance;
  • Faulty locks and poor maintenance;
  • Inadequate lighting.

The Elements of a Negligent Security Case in Virginia

Some of the elements of a negligent security case in Virginia were highlighted in a 1994 case before the District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The case was brought by a woman who worked in a mall kiosk. As she was closing up her kiosk, a gunman forced her into his vehicle. He raped and robbed her in the parking lot of the mall.

The woman sued the mall authorities for a failure to provide security in the mall parking lot. The victim’s lawyers later discovered a mall security guard failed to show up for duty on the night of the attack. Lawyers for the woman discovered about 150 crimes had been committed people at the mall. The woman’s lawyer also uncovered evidence of funding problems that affected mall security. The case was settled for $350,000.

A case in Florida highlights how the failure to maintain equipment can impact a negligent security case.

The case concerned the killing of a 24-year-old man from South Florida. The man and a co-worker were working at a car wash when three men tried to rob them. The victim was shot dead by a 16-year-old as he tried to flee the crime scene.

At a subsequent trial, it was revealed the surveillance cameras at the gas station and car wash had not been working for more than two years. The jury heard the crime occurred in a dangerous neighborhood and four previous crimes were committed at the car wash. The manager of the car wash would not show up to work without an armed escort.

The jury awarded the family of the dead man over $5.6 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Negligent security cases are also known as inadequate security cases. These are difficult cases to win under Virginia law. It’s not enough to show you were harmed by a third party at a mall, an apartment complex or another venue. The owner, operator, or management company must have known the area was dangerous and been aware of past incidents. The entity in charge of security must be shown to have taken little or no action to rectify the problem, leaving visitors in danger.

Hire an Experienced Virginia Negligent Security Lawyer

At the Smith Law Center, our attorneys have represented people injured across Virginia for decades. Our trial lawyers take on difficult cases and fight for your rights. If you have been hurt at a shopping mall, a hotel, a school, a college or any other building due to the negligence of another party, please contact us for a free consultation at (757) 244-7000.

Smith Law Center partners

About Smith Law Center

Our lawyers are more than lawyers. They are people who understand your injuries and the law that surrounds your options when it comes to holding others accountable.

No items found.