October 2, 2023

Premises Liability

A personal injury case is usually based on strict liability, negligence, or intent. A case based on negligence is one where injuries happen by accident. An action in negligence requires a showing that a defendant owed a plaintiff a legal duty, that the defendant breached the duty, and that the breach was a proximate or legal cause of the injuries plaintiff suffered.

When persons or businesses own property, landowners are required to maintain land in their possession and control in a reasonably safe condition. This maintenance duty, owed to patrons, includes the duty to take reasonable steps to secure common areas against foreseeable criminal acts of third parties that are likely to occur in the absence of precautionary measures. There is persuasive case law that the existence of a defendant’s duty to keep premises safe is not precluded by the defendant’s lack of control over the exterior premises where the crime occurred. For example, if a mugging happens in a parking lot, the defendant may still be liable to the plaintiff even though the defendant does not own the parking lot. The question is whether the crime would have occurred in premises the defendant did not control, had the defendant provided security patrols in the common areas.

A duty to control the wrongful acts of a third party will be imposed only where such conduct can be reasonably anticipated. Foreseeability is a crucial factor in determining the existence of duty. For example, a landlord may have a duty to take reasonable precautions to safeguard common areas against crimes which it had notice and which were likely to recur if the common areas were not secure. Without foreseeability as a factor, an unfair burden would be imposed on landowners and, in effect, would force landownersto become the insurers of public safety.

Foreseeability is determined in light of the totality of the circumstances, including such factors as the nature, condition, and location of the premises. Random, violent crimes are endemic in today’s society. Because no one really knows why people commit crimes, no one knows what adequate deterrence is in any given situation. The scope of a defendant’s duty is determined by balancing the foreseeability of harm against the burdensomeness, vagueness, and efficacy of proposed security measures.

Because the monetary cost of security guards is significant, the hiring of security guards required to satisfy a landowner’s duty of care will rarely be a minimal burden. A high degree of foreseeability is required in order to find that a landowner’s duty of care includes the hiring of security guards. In other words, for there to be a duty imposed on a defendant to provide security guards, a plaintiff has to show that the presence of guards could have prevented the criminal incident.

Often the legal aspects of premises liability cases require prepared Chicago personal injury attorneys who do not surrender to the negatives.

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