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CA Businesses May Be Liable for Injuries Related to Crimes

September 29, 2015 | Category: Car Accidents

Most people who sustain injuries after slipping on a wet store floor or suffering a head injury from a can that falls from a shelf naturally expect the store owner to take responsibility and pay compensation for any injuries sustained. But a very real question concerns whether or not the owner of a public place can be held liable if a gunman walks in and opens fire, injuring or killing one or more customers.

Such cases can pose certain challenges for a Los Angeles accident lawyer who essentially needs to prove that property owners should have foreseen an event and taken appropriate measures to try to prevent it.

Every Case involves Important Unique Details

Convenience stores are common targets of violent crimes, particularly during late-night or early-morning hours, but every case is different. One incident reported by CBS8.com in April raises as many questions as answers when it comes to questions of legal liability.

Early one morning, a robber entered a Clairemont store, ordering the clerk and a customer to the ground before telling the clerk to empty the cash register. The clerk followed all instructions and, while on the ground, he overheard a verbal exchange between the customer and robber, followed by a gunshot. The customer died within an hour of arrival at the hospital

Clearly, the shooter is ultimately responsible for the fatality, but the convenience store could potentially share some liability based on the foreseeability of such an incident.

The Meaning of Foreseeability

California statutes provide no clear-cut definition that can be used to absolutely determine if a premises owner should have been able to foresee a violent event on its property. When deciding issues relating to liability for a tragic event like the one in Clairemont, California, courts may look at decisions of prior cases to determine if a case will reach a jury.

They also consider facts from the current case to determine if a property owner could reasonably be expected to take more protective measures because of the foreseeability of such crimes. The following are examples of circumstances that could make the possibility of crimes predictable in a public place:

  • High-crime locations
  • A history of past events at a given property
  • The availability of cash or valuable items within the premises
  • Operation outside of normal business hours
  • Lack of sufficient street lighting, security cameras or other protective measures

Of course, none of these examples automatically provides clear evidence that a store shares liability for a violent third-party crime. Still, California crime victims or their families need to use conditions like these to hold the facility accountable to any degree.

Detailed Investigations Can Reveal Owner Liability

The retail industry is considered to be at greatest risk for violent injuries, particularly for small retail businesses, and business owners owe a duty to visitors and to their own employees to take reasonable preventive measures that can reduce the risks. When violent acts cause injuries or fatalities, however, it often takes the skills of highly-experienced premises liability attorneys to identify conditions that justify holding property owners accountable for the criminal activities of outside parties.

The attorneys at The Rudman Law Firm, APC explore every avenue to help ensure accident victims pursue damages from all liable parties. Call us toll free at (844) 478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN, or at our Los Angeles office (213) 375-3777, or at our Studio City office (818) 769-6969, or use our convenient online contact form for a thorough assessment of your unique circumstances.

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