We see it on the news and often it’s captured on video. A fight erupts in a restaurant or at a stadium and customers or patrons are injured. Or, even worse a shooting occurs at a store or office. Is the jointly business responsible for the harm caused by the criminal?
Pennsylvania Businesses are not legally responsible for all injuries that occur on their properties. Stores are not responsible for compensating anyone who suffered harm at the business, regardless of who was at fault. Instead, Pennsylvania law requires proof of Negligence, otherwise known as Carelessness, in order for legal liability to attach.
So, what about cases in which a business customer is injured by the Criminal Conduct of a fellow customer or stranger on the Business property? Examples are, unfortunately numerous, like a customer at a store being physically attacked by a fellow customer, or a spectator at an Eagles game being assaulted by a Giants fan, or a bar customer being followed into the parking lot and raped by another bar patron.
In these situations are the Businesses legally responsible to compensate the crime victims for their injuries?
The answer is that it depends….
Just because the incident occurred on a commercial property does not make the Business automatically liable. To use a legal phrase, the Business “is not an insurer of a customer’s safety” and is not “strictly liable” for the harm.
Businesses owe a legal duty to take reasonable steps to keep their customers safe from harm. Legal liability for injuries requires proof of Negligence.
Negligence or carelessness is the failure to use the ordinary care that a reasonable person would have used under the circumstances. In the context of a Business being sued for a criminal act occurring on its premises, a business owner has a duty to use reasonable care to fund out if a customer is being harmed or is likely to be harmed on the premises and to warn or protect the customer.
To prove Negligence in the context of a crime occurring on a Business property, the issue is whether the business owner knew or should have known that there was a likelihood of criminal activity occurring on the property and whether the business took reasonable steps to warn or protect the customer against it. In deciding the issue of Negligence, the location and nature of the business, as well as past experiences, are relevant.
Using those factors as a guide, the more potentially dangerous the location and business type are (like a rough neighborhood bar in a sketchy Philadelphia neighborhood) and the more prior history of crime occurring at the Business there is, the more likely it is that the Business will be held legally responsible for injuries from crime if it did not undertake appropriate safety and security procedures.
This is part of the reason why you see security cameras, security guards and metal detectors being more common at Pennsylvania businesses. Businesses want to prevent injuries to customers, but they also want to avoid legal liability by establishing that they took reasonable steps to make the Business safe and secure.
Tim Rayne is a Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyer who helps injured accident victims receive fair compensation from insurance companies. Tim regularly represents people who have been injured by the negligence of individuals and businesses. Tim has offices in Kennett Square and West Chester Pennsylvania.
Contact Tim at 6108400124 or [email protected] to schedule a Free Consultation.