The inadequate security definition recognized by most Georgia courts is the failure of a property owner, property manager, event organizer, or private security firm to ensure a sufficient degree of security so that residents, patrons, guests, patients, students, or other invitees will be reasonably safe from violent crime.
Inadequate security, also sometimes referred to as negligent security, can be established when:
- The defendant controller of the site had a legal responsibility to make sure it was reasonably safe (or warn people if it wasn’t).
- The plaintiff was physically injured by this failure to act.
- The physical injuries resulted in monetary damages.
It is typically necessary to show that the harm caused was reasonably foreseeable. This does not mean Georgia courts expect property owners to read a magical crystal ball, nor are they insurers of their guests’ safety. What the law does expect is that the property owner will take into account not only the type of property/event but the location and recent crimes in the surrounding area.
Examples of violent crimes that could spur a Georgia negligent security lawsuit include:
- Rape/sexual assault
- Aggravated robbery
- Aggravated assault and battery
What is considered “adequate” security will depend on the kind of business or property it is (banks are going to require different security measures than amusement parks) and also the crime rate at the site and in the surrounding area.
Five Examples of Real-Life Inadequate Security Cases
Some real-life examples of negligent security lawsuits worth exploring include:
- A restaurant owner in an area known for rampant crime does not hire armed security or even have a working surveillance camera. This may be especially true in cases where the restaurant is open 24-7. The owner of a breakfast chain was ordered to pay $900,000 after an armed robbery left plaintiff with facial fractures and a brain injury. The restaurant tried to argue that the patron was negligent for not simply handing the robber what he wanted. The trial court disagreed, and the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the verdict.
- A fight at a nightclub escalates and grows violent in a parking lot, when one of those involved runs over another in a pickup truck. That’s what happened in a 1991 case. The Georgia Court of Appeals later affirmed. The person injured sued, arguing the club was negligent in not having a security guard outside as patrons existed, and that the attacker’s act of running over another patron wasn’t an isolated criminal act, but a fight that started in the parking lot and escalated. It was true no one had been run over on the site before, but this was an extension of a chain of events stemming from an uninterrupted fight. Plus, as the appellate court noted, “There was evidence that prior fights had occurred both inside and outside appellant’s club, and it is certainly foreseeable that any fight which continues unchecked ad without interruption could escalate into a more violent encounter as emotions intensify.”
- A gang violently attacks a man waiting at a bus stop outside the entrance of an amusement park. The victim was awarded $35 million by a Cobb County jury – later affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court. The park is located in an area that was known for crime and gang activity. That day inside the park, a group of attackers were harassing young families in the park. Security did not make them leave. They followed one of the men they were harassing out of the park to a nearby bus stop. There, he was beaten so badly he went into a coma and suffered permanent brain damage.
- A Navy veteran was shot in a violent robbery in a grocery store parking lot, leaving him paralyzed. In 2019 a jury in DeKalb County awarded the veteran $81 million. Plaintiff’s attorneys argued the store was aware that the location was unsafe and high crime. One of the gunmen was reported to have been hanging out on in the parking lot on previous occasions. Yet the store failed to install any security guards in the parking lot. The store had hired a security firm prior to the shooting, but by contract, they were only responsible for interior security. They were initially named as a defendant but later dismissed from the case. The assailants were deemed 14 percent liable, so the final verdict against the grocery store was nearly $70 million.
- A hotel guest was shot in an attempted robbery in the parking lot of an Atlanta hotel. A security guard at a Days Inn watched the entire incident from his vehicle 40 feet away and instructed the front desk to call the police. The hotel insisted it wasn’t liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because it was the result of unforeseeable conduct by a third-party. Specifically, although property crimes had been committed on-site before, none were substantially similar to an armed robbery that would put the hotel on notice something like this would happen. The trial court granted the hotel summary judgment, but the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, noting the 82 crimes reportedly committed in the hotel parking lot in the three years prior to the attack on the plaintiff. There was also one robbery in a guest room. Plaintiff also showed evidence from three other hotels within a quarter-mile radius – and the crimes committed in the parking lots of those locations were even more staggering, including robberies, a rape, assaults, and kidnapping. The plaintiff, from out-of-town, knew none of this. Meanwhile, the hotel had a policy that such statistics were supposed to be monitored and action taken accordingly. The trial court later decided in favor of the plaintiff, a verdict that was ultimately affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court.
If you are injured as a result of inadequate security, our Atlanta injury lawyers can help.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta sexual assault victim attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at email@example.com.