Negligent Security Cases: Responsibility For Criminal Acts

Negligent security cases typically arise in the context of a victim of a criminal assault either at an apartment complex or motel. If the apartment complex provides security but negligently does so, and a tenant is attacked at a time an attack is foreseeable, an apartment complex can be held liable even if the damages were perpetrated by a criminal third party. Similarly, in a motel setting, if the motel is aware that their tenants are at heightened risk of attacks from criminals and fail to take appropriate security measures to protect their guests, under certain limited circumstances, the motel owner can be liable for an attack upon the customer.
Under Georgia law, generally, there is no duty to protect invitees from the criminal acts of third parties. For such a duty to exist, a plaintiff must demonstrate foreseeability. Foreseeability is heightened and superior knowledge by the owner or occupier of the dangerous condition created by a third person. When a victim seeks to demonstrate knowledge on the part of a defendant by presenting evidence of prior crimes allegedly known to the owner/occupier, substantial similarity between the crimes is required. In other words, if someone is the victim of a rape then forced entries into motel rooms, other rapes or other similar crimes will typically be required to be proven in order to demonstrate that it was foreseeable that a guest of the motel may have been attacked by a criminal third party absent adequate security for their protection. As stated, generally, there is no liability for third party criminal acts because such acts are deemed to be intervening acts sufficient of themselves to have caused the damages and injuries without the contributing influence of the landowner/occupier.
In today’s crime ridden society, it is obviously foreseeable that anybody can be victimized by crime at any time or place. What is legally necessary in these cases is superior knowledge. If a motel owner knows that their guests have been subject to numerous crimes on their property and fails to take steps to either warn their guests and/or protect them, there can be liability because of the superior knowledge of the landowner/occupier. Similarly, if an apartment complex is aware that tenants are at risk of being raped or attacked by criminals because of superior knowledge of criminal activity on property they own, they too can be held civilly liable for damages caused by the rapist. Of course, before they can be held liable, they must also be negligent, that is failing to provide adequate security in the face of such superior knowledge.
In any case where a victim of a crime believes that they may be a victim of negligent security, they should consult with counsel as soon as possible. Investigation of the facts while they are fresh is always imperative in such cases. The more evidence of foreseeability and superior knowledge the more likely it is that the landowner/occupier can be held liable civilly for damages.

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