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

While most premises liability claims involve an injury due to dangerous conditions, criminal sexual assaults 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?

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 attorney. 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 foresee the crime, your premises liability attorney will explore the following:

  • 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 such as an unlit alley with windows into residential hallways or a lack of upkeep?

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, 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 were faulty and the property owner had reason to know this.

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 crime 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 attorney can help you establish liability by proving all four elements of your case.

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.

Brandon Stein

Chief Executive Officer

Brandon Stein, the owner and founder of SteinLaw, is a Florida-based trial attorney who focuses on personal injury cases such as wrongful death, car accident, slip and fall, and a variety of other civil litigation areas. Being a former associate at a prominent Florida Defense Law Firm, Brandon Stein understands the strategy and tactics...[READ BIO]