Rape & Sexual Assault Due to Negligent Security | SteinLaw

Rape & Sexual Assault Due to Negligent Security

Premises Liability - Sexual Assault

How Premises Liability Laws Can Affect Sexual Assault Cases in Florida

Owners of shopping centers, nightclubs, and other commercial properties have a duty to provide a safe, secure place for customers and guests. Unfortunately, property owners sometimes fail in this duty and make it easier for a criminal assault like rape to occur. When this happens, the victim may have the right to sue the property owner or manager for the injuries even though the perpetrator is directly responsible for the assault.

If you have been the victim of sexual assault on someone else’s property in Florida, it’s important to understand your legal rights. You may have a premises liability claim for negligent security against the property manager or owner, even if the perpetrator of the crime is not caught or prosecuted.

What Is Premises Liability?

Premises liability is an area of law and it refers to the legal liability a property owner or manager may have if someone is injured due to unsafe conditions on their property. Under Florida law, property owners have a legal duty to maintain their property in a safe condition for all guests.

Florida is one of several states to classify potential victims in one of three ways:

  • Invitee,
  • Licensee, or
  • Trespasser

The duty of care will depend on the visitor’s classification. The highest duty of care is owed to people who are invited onto the property for personal or business reasons such as customers. Licensees are also owed a duty of care; these are people such as salespeople who are allowed onto the property but are doing so for their own purposes. Property owners owe the least duty to trespassers with some exceptions such as children.

It’s important to understand that property owners aren’t liable for all injuries or crimes that occur on their property. If you are the victim of a crime on the property, you must show that the property owner knew or should have known that the property was unsafe or that the area had a high crime rate and did nothing to reduce the risk to guests.

The Duty of Care for Safety and Security

Premises Liability Sexual Assault Case - Florida Lawyers

While most premises liability claims involve an injury due to dangerous conditions, criminal sexual assault committed by a third party can also involve premises liability in Florida. Landlords, property owners, and property managers owe a duty to customers, guests, residents, and visitors to ensure the property is safe and secure.

Premises liability claims involving rape can occur anywhere but they typically involve apartment buildings, retail stores and shopping centers, hotels and motels, casinos, bars, college campuses, and properties that are open 24/7.

There are many conditions that contribute to violent sexual assault for which a property owner may be liable such as:

  • Overgrown landscaping
  • Inadequate security lighting
  • Faulty or poor quality locks on windows and doors
  • No monitoring of secluded areas of the property
  • A lack of security cameras and fencing

Proving Liability in a Sexual Assault Case

Premises liability cases involving rape often come down to negligent security. When a property owner does not provide adequate security for the property and has reason to believe that visitors, residents, or customers may be at risk, they can be held liable.

It isn’t enough for an assault to occur on someone else’s property to establish liability, however: under Florida law, property owners and managers have a duty to protect customers and residents from foreseeable harm, not all possible harm.

Proving a premises liability claim in the case of sexual assault requires proving the following:

  • The property owner owed a duty of care
  • This duty of care was breached
  • The breach of duty caused or reasonably could have caused your sexual assault
  • You suffered damages

Two of these elements are fairly easy to prove. As the victim of a sexual assault, you certainly suffered damages. Unless you were trespassing, the property owner also likely owed you a reasonable duty of care.

How Is a Breach of Duty Established?

Apartment with lack of security - Premises Liability Lawyers

Establishing that the property owner breached their duty of care can be complicated and this is why it’s important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The property owner must have had reason to foresee the risks of an assault or other crime occurring on the property and failed to take steps to protect you and other customers, residents, or guests.

To show that the property owner had reason to foresee the crime, your premises liability attorney will explore the following:

  • Was the assault committed by an employee? If so, you may have a case against the business owner. However, this would not fall under premises liability. Instead, the employer may be sued through vicarious liability or, more likely, due to negligence such as negligent hiring practices. 
  • Does the area have a high crime rate? If so, have sexual assaults happened in the area in the past?
  • Is there a history of complaints about security on the property?
  • Are there any characteristics of the property that may invite criminal activity? For example, does the building have security cameras? Were locks on doors and windows functional and sound? Was there adequate screening at the entrance or controlled access? Was there adequate lighting?

How Is Causation Established?

A second major hurdle to overcome is establishing a cause and effect relationship which means the property owner or landlord was responsible for creating circumstances that encouraged your sexual assault. As an example, a robbery that occurs at a poorly lit ATM is enough to satisfy this requirement but not if it can be shown that the victim was targeted specifically by the criminals and the crime was planned in advance.

Your premises liability lawyer will explore the details of your case to help establish how the property owner’s negligent security caused you harm. If the crime occurred in an apartment building, for example, how did the perpetrator get into the building? It’s important to establish how the crime occurred, what security measures could have prevented the crime, and whether the measures were reasonable. 

In this example, the property manager or owner may be liable if there was no doorman or controlled access to the building or locks to the property or the unit was faulty and the property owner had reason to know this. 

We may explore past complaints at the property, previous crimes, and reports by tenants about broken locks or windows that were not addressed. 

What Damages Are Available To Sexual Assault Victims in a Premises Liability Case?

Sexual Assault Victims - FL Premises Liability Lawyer

When a property owner, property manager, or landlord fails in their duty to protect you from reasonable harm, they may be held liable for the damages you suffered. Your assault may have left you with serious injuries that include not only physical injuries but emotional and psychological harm. You may struggle to return to work, perform daily tasks of living, enjoy hobbies. You may also face financial uncertainty. 

You may be entitled to two broad forms of damages. Economic damages compensate you for the financial losses associated with the crime such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages compensate for losses that have no intrinsic financial value like your pain and suffering. 

At SteinLaw, we will help you seek compensation for all your damages: 

  • Medical bills including future medical expenses necessary for the injuries you sustained
  • Lost wages while you took time off work to recover
  • Future lost earnings if you are left with a long-term or permanent impairment or disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

While financial compensation cannot erase the psychological and physical harm you have suffered, you should never face a financial burden as the victim of crime. A premises liability lawsuit can hold a negligent property owner accountable and help you cover the expenses you have faced so you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life. 

Contact SteinLaw to discuss your case during a free consultation with a Florida negligent security lawyer. We will fight for the full compensation you deserve.

Why It’s Important to Work with an Experienced Premises Liability Attorney

Premises liability cases are notoriously complex, even when the case seems straightforward. These cases are even more complicated when they involve violent crimes like sexual assault committed by a third party on the property.

As the victim of a sexual assault, you may have the right to file a claim against the property owner for failing to take steps to protect you from harm. An experienced Florida premises liability lawyer can help you establish liability by proving all four elements of your case.

Be aware that you have a limited amount of time to pursue a premises liability claim against the property owner. Florida Law 95.11 gives you a four-year statute of limitations for premises liability lawsuits. If you miss this deadline, you will be barred from recovering any compensation from the property owner for the injuries you suffered. 

Do not delay in contacting an experienced premises liability lawyer. As time passes, it becomes harder to gather and preserve crucial evidence that proves negligence and strengthens your claim. 

If you or someone you love has been the victim of sexual assault on someone else’s property, schedule a free consultation with SteinLaw to discuss your case with a premises liability attorney who can help you make sure what happened to you does not happen to someone else at the property. We have decades of experience representing victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other crimes in seeking the compensation they need to move forward.

Rape & Sexual Assault Due to Negligent Security FAQs

1. When can a business or property owner be held liable for a sexual assault?

A property owner may be liable for sexual assault under premises liability law if they owed the victim a duty of care (as a customer or lawful guest, for instance), sexual assault was a foreseeable crime on the premises, and the property owner failed to provide adequate security. 

There are many scenarios in which business owners should reasonably expect that a sexual assault may occur. Some businesses like poorly lit parking lots in urban areas, bars and nightclubs, apartment buildings, hotels, and resorts pose a higher risk of assault. 

If the crime was foreseeable, the property owner should have taken steps to prevent the crime from occurring. Depending on the circumstances, this may include adequate lighting, fencing, security personnel, surveillance cameras, controlled access to the building, and adequate locks on doors and windows. 

If you were the victim of sexual assault on someone else’s property, they may be held liable if they failed in their duty to provide you with the security you expected. Contact Steinlaw for a free consultation with a negligent security lawyer to discuss your case.

2. What is negligent security?

Florida property owners and managers have a duty to make reasonable effort to protect visitors from dangerous conditions and third-party crime. Negligent security occurs when a property owner fails to provide reasonable and necessary security measures like cameras, security personnel, and lighting. When someone is the victim of crime due to negligent security, the property owner may be held liable.

3. What are examples of negligent security?

For some properties, a certain amount of security is expected and necessary to help prevent crime like sexual assault and muggings. The following are common examples of negligent security that may contribute to allowing a crime to happen. 

  • Poorly trained or inadequate security staff
  • Broken or inadequate locks on windows and doors
  • Poor lighting in a parking lot, alley, or stairwells
  • A lack of adequate fencing
  • A lack of functioning security cameras 
  • Failing to respond to security alarms

If you believe any of the above allowed the crime to occur, you may have a negligent security claim against the property owner. Contact SteinLaw to discuss if you have a case.

4. What types of establishments must take security precautions?

There are no hard and fast rules as to which types of businesses must have security and the security measures that are considered reasonable. It helps to understand that property owners are not strictly liable for all crimes that occur on their property; only those that were reasonably foreseeable. 

Business owners have a duty to assess the risks inherent with their type of establishment, the location, property conditions, and crime in the area. 

A business in a high crime area may always have a foreseeable risk of robbery and theft crimes just due to the location. A history of past crimes at the business and types of crime in the area may also be considered to determine when security is necessary and what measures can be used. Business owners should also consider what type of security visitors will expect and what is and is not reasonable. 

As a general rule, the following types of establishments should have at least some level of security:

  • Apartment buildings and gated communities
  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Concert venues, sports arenas, and recreational centers
  • Hospitals, clinics, mental health facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities
  • Colleges, universities, college dorms, and other schools
  • Hotels, motels, and convention centers
  • Mass transit stations
  • Office buildings 
  • Shopping centers, retail stores, and movie theaters
  • Banks and ATM areas

If you have been the victim of crime on someone else’s property, call SteinLaw for a free consultation. We will investigate your case and determine if the property owner was negligent in providing adequate security.

5. Why sue the property owner if they didn’t commit the crime?

Even though a property owner is not responsible for your crime under criminal law, they are still considered liable for criminal acts on their property that they could have prevented. When you lawfully visit a property, whether it is using a bank’s ATM, shopping at a store, or visiting a nightclub, you expect to be as safe as possible. A property owner that fails in their duty to protect you from foreseeable crime can be held liable for their negligence and allow you to recover fair compensation to pay for your medical bills and other damages. 

6. Who can be held accountable in a negligent security shooting case?

When you are shot due to negligent security, the most common defendant is the property owner. The property owner or the property manager owed you a duty to provide reasonable security against foreseeable crime. In some cases, a security company or even an event organizer may be sued for failing to provide adequate security. 

7. Can you sue a security company?

In some cases, you can sue a security company in Florida for negligence. It can be much harder to sue a security company than a property owner for negligent security, however, because these two entities owe you different legal duties. 

While the property owner has a legal duty to take reasonable steps to protect you from crime on their property, a contracted security company has a duty to the company that hired them. If the contract between the security company and property owner required the security firm to assume liability, you may have a case. 

When you are able to file a lawsuit against the security company, they may be held liable if the security guards provided inadequate security (such as leaving their post), were unnecessarily aggressive or escalated violence, or they did not monitor areas where crime was likely. 

Security guard negligence cases are very complex. If you believe a negligent security company allowed the crime to occur, contact SteinLaw for a free consultation to discuss if you have a claim. 

8. What factors should be considered to determine if a shooting should have been foreseeable?

A property owner only has a duty to protect visitors from foreseeable crimes. In Florida, the court will consider the totality of the circumstances to decide which crimes are foreseeable. This allows plaintiffs to introduce a broad range of evidence to establish the property owner should have known a shooting could occur. 

The following factors may be considered when assessing whether a shooting on the premises should have been foreseeable. 

  • When considering all circumstances, including the premises location, type of patrons, and ease of bringing a firearm onto the property, did the property owner have any reason to anticipate the crime?
  • Were there prior shootings or similar violent crimes in the area? 
  • Does the type of property have a higher risk of shootings? This can include nightclubs, bars, and convenience stores. 
  • Did security personnel see anything suspicious?
  • Have there been high-profile shootings at similar businesses?
  • Were there known issues with the shooter at the business? 
  • Does the business have a history of other crimes?

Schedule a consultation with a Florida premises liability lawyer at SteinLaw to discuss your shooting and whether the property owner may be liable. 

9. What is the value of a shooting premises liability case? 

Every premises liability case is unique. There is no way to estimate the value of your case without an in-depth review and consultation. Some damages are easy to calculate such as existing medical expenses and lost wages.

Future lost earnings due to impairment or disability may require the help of a financial expert. Medical expert testimony may be necessary if you will require long-term or lifelong medical treatment for your injuries. 

Your non-economic losses may also contribute to some or even most of the value of your claim and these losses, which have no financial value, are tricky to calculate. Non-economic damages may be based on the type and severity of your injuries, whether you were disabled or disfigured, and how your injuries will impact your enjoyment of life, health, and ability to work. 

The best way to estimate the value of a shooting premises liability case is through a free consultation with a Florida premises liability lawyer. Contact SteinLaw today to discuss what your case may be worth. 

Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein is a Florida based trial attorney born in Queens, New York, and was raised in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Being the son of an accountant that owns a large firm in New Jersey, owning and operating a business is something that was engrained within Brandon Stein from a very young age...[READ BIO]

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