Negligent Security and the Legal Duties of Maryland Property Owners
You may be aware that property owners in Maryland have a duty to maintain a reasonably safe environment for people who come onto the property. However, you may not fully grasp how far this legal obligation extends. Generally, individuals and entities with control of a property are required to repair known dangerous hazards on the premises; however, there is also legal precedent requiring such property owners to take reasonable measures to protect invitees on the premises from potential threats to their safety coming from the misconduct of others. Criminal activity can sometimes be prevented through reasonable security measures. Further, where not prevented, criminal activity can lead to injuries and fatalities in the same way as a slip and fall or other incidents due to different types of negligence. As such, under the general theory of premises liability, property owners may be held accountable for failing to implement security measures in some cases.
If you were hurt because of violent, intentional conduct, you may be wondering about your rights in a claim for negligent security against the landowner or operator. A conviction and punishment may provide some closure to you, but the outcome of a criminal case does not cover the losses you sustain as a victim. A premises liability lawyer might be able assist with the legal challenges.
Legal Basis for Negligent Security Claims
As mentioned above, claims for inadequate security are usually based upon the theory of premises liability. Because these cases fall under the concept of negligence, this legal theory usually rests upon four essential elements you must prove in order to recover monetary damages.
- Duty of Care: You must have evidence regarding the property owner’s duty to keep the premises reasonably safe. In negligent security cases, the concept of duty usually involves a situation where the property owner knew there was a history of criminal activity on the premises and failed to take the appropriate actions to remedy a known risk.
- Breach: You need to show that the property owner breached this legal duty through carelessness in providing security. Examples usually involve some type of omission or negligent action on the party of the property owner or operator. For example, failures to act reasonably might include:
- Failing to install lighting in dark hallways, staircases, aisles, and parking areas;
- Failing to maintain proper locks on doors and windows;
- Failing to implement a key-card system for entryways;
- Failing to install auto-locking mechanisms on exterior doors; or,
- Failing to hire a security guard to patrol unsafe spaces.
- Failing to warn others of known potential dangerous conditions
- Other case specific and fact dependant failures
- Causation: There must be a direct link between the failure or omission of the premises owner/operator and the criminal incident in which you were injured. For instance, you may meet this requirement by showing that an attacker was able to hide in a parking garage because of poor lighting or lack of surveillance cameras– and he or she then assaulted you.
- Damages: You must show the range of physical, emotional, and financial losses you suffered as a result of getting hurt. Medical records, pay stubs, input from medical experts, and other evidence may support this element.
How Crime Statistics Can Impact the Duties of the Property Owner/Operator
Because a property owner is only required to protect against hazards that are reasonably foreseeable or probable, an important factor in analysis of the probability of success in a negligent security case often involves the history of criminal incidents on the premises. For example, in some areas of Baltimore, there are areas that see higher levels of illegal, or violent activity, according to Neighborhood Scout, an online resource for information about crime. This site compiles details from arrests, incident reports, 911 and non-emergency calls, and other databases of criminal statistics.*
You will need to gather these information and documents from official sources, but some numbers from the above source are as follows:
- On a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the safest, Baltimore as a municipality is a ONE on the crime index. The city has one of the highest crime rates in the US when compared to other municipal areas, from small towns to large urban areas.
- So far in 2019, there have been 12,492 violent crimes in Baltimore.
- Your chances of being the victim of a violent crime are one in 49, as compared to one in 200 for the rest of Maryland.
*Our firm can make no representations as to the veracity or accuracy of the data provided from this third-party source. However, we merely posit this data as one example of something that might be relevant in an overall danger assessment of a given area. In the prosecution of such a claim, it may be necessary to consult with an expert witness with particular knowledge as to reasonable industry standards.
Responsible Parties in a Negligent Security Case
In the above description regarding premises liability cases, the term “property owner” or “operator” is used loosely. The exact determination as to which entities are accountable may apply to a wider range of individuals and entities than you might expect. Before getting into the details of potential parties, it may help you to understand the multitude of properties and spaces that are covered by premises liability laws in Maryland. For instance, you could have a claim for negligent security if you are injured at:
- A store, mall, or shopping center;
- A restaurant, bars, night club, or tavern;
- An office building where you work or are attending an appointment;
- Hotels, motels, and hostels;
- The apartment complex where you live or are visiting;
- Theaters, museums, and other attractions;
- Parking lots and garages; and,
- Many other locations.
Premises liability duties extend to any party that has an ownership interest or some amount of control over these types of property. As such, potential parties in a negligent security case may include:
- The actual owner on the deed for the real estate;
- The owner of a building on the land, if different from the deed;
- Any company that operates a business inside a building or in exterior spaces;
- A property management company;
- A landlord that leases out space to individuals or entities;
- Tenants who lease space from the owner or other company;
- An entity that promotes an event at the property; and,
- A contractor hired by the property owner to perform a non-delegable duty;
- Other related parties.
Of course, many of these potential parties may carry varying insurance policies to protect their personal or business interests so available insurance coverage available might be available to cover your medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and many other losses you sustain.