In Georgia, property owners can be liable for injuries to people entering their premises. This is because property owners owe a duty to entrants to ensure that their premises are safe. This duty to keep entrants safe on the premises also extends to protecting entrants from the criminal conduct of third parties on the premises. The following will explore the concept of negligent security in Georgia.
What is Negligent Security?
Property owners have a duty to protect people who enter their premises from the criminal conduct of third parties on the premises. The term “negligent security” is used to describe a situation in which a property owner fails to take the appropriate security measures to ensure that entrants are protected from the criminal actions of third parties.
In order to prove negligent security, one must first prove that the property owner was negligent. Negligence has four elements:
- Duty: The owner has a duty to entrants to keep them safe from foreseeable dangers on his premises, including the criminal conduct of third parties.
- Breach: If the owner fails to adhere to this duty, he has breached this duty.
- Causation: There is causation if the owner’s breach resulted in injury to the plaintiff and this injury was foreseeable to the owner.
- Damage: This element can be proved by showing that the plaintiff suffered some specific damage or injury.
Additionally, in order for a property owner to be found negligent, the criminal act in question must have been foreseeable. This means that the owner was put on notice that criminal activity was likely to occur on his premises and as such, should have taken proper precautions to ensure that people entering the premises are safe. The following are a few situations in which Georgia courts have found that criminal activity should have been foreseeable to a property owner:
- Substantially similar crimes have previously occurred on the premises. If an owner has knowledge of prior criminal acts on his premises, it is foreseeable that similar crimes could occur in the future. As such, he is responsible for taking certain precautions to prevent similar crimes from reoccurring.
- A volatile situation was emerging on the premises. This could be something like a fight breaking out or threats being made. This activity should put the owner on notice that criminal activity (i.e. a fight or assault) is about to occur. The owner is responsible for abating these activities (by calling the police, for example) to ensure that entrants remain safe.
- If the premises is located in a high-crime area, the owner is presumed to foresee that criminal activity may frequently occur on his premises and as such, he should take the necessary precautionary measures to protect entrants.
Additional Elements to Prove
After proving that the property owner met the general standard for negligence, you will also need to prove the following two elements to make a successful claim for negligent security:
- You entered the premises with the permission of the owner. For example, you were a customer or tenant. This is important because property owners owe various duties to various types of entrants. For example, property owners do not owe a duty to trespassers. Therefore, if you were trespassing when you were injured on the premises by the criminal conduct of a third party, you may not have a claim for negligent security.
- You suffered an injury due in part to the owner’s failure to use proper security measures. For example, someone broke into your apartment and stole several valuable items because the lock on your door was faulty.