This seems to be one of the most misunderstood elements of premises liability law in California. Let’s finally put an end to the never-ending debate of whether the owner of a property can or cannot be held liable for criminal acts of a third party on their property.
We invited our Los Angeles County premises liability attorney from the Compass Law Group, LLP to answer the question and explain in which situations property owners can be held responsible for actions and criminal acts of other persons on their property.
Can property owners be held liable for criminal acts of a third party?
Whether you were injured at the hands of a third party on a property owned by a business or individual, you may be entitled to compensation by filing a premises liability lawsuit against both the perpetrator and property owner.
Let’s imagine that you went to a bathroom in one of the Californian cafes and were sexually assaulted by a third party. Or let’s imagine that you were robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of one of the state’s shopping malls. In the first situation, the bathroom had a faulty lock, which made it impossible to close the door and resulted in the sexual assault. In the second situation, the parking lot was not well-lit and you could not see the perpetrator before it was too late.
Can the property owners be held liable for your medical expenses and other damages in these two situations? Our best premises liability attorneys in California say, “Yes, they can.”
A property owner’s liability for criminal and wrongful acts of third parties
While premises liability law in California provides that the owner of the property is “not an insurer of the safety of his invitees,” property owners are required by law to take reasonable steps to ensure their invitees and visitors’ safety. A breach of this duty makes the property owner liable for criminal acts and other actions of third parties that lead to injuries or fatalities.
Our experienced premises liability lawyer in Los Angeles County explain that property owners all across California have a duty to (1) maintain and inspect their premises to discover dangerous conditions, prevent and fix them, and (2) take reasonable steps and affirmative actions to prevent and control wrongful or criminal acts of third parties when such acts can be foreseeable. In other words, if criminal acts or actions could be prevented and/or are foreseeable (the property owner had a reasonable cause to anticipate such acts), the owner of the property may be held liable for the criminal acts of third parties on his/her premises.
Establishing liability in a premises liability case
These four elements can help you establish liability in a premises liability case:
- Location. Did the criminal or wrongful act occurred in a high-crime area? Some areas and locations are known to be more dangerous than others, which means certain types of crime may be foreseeable.
- Lighting. Was the location where the act occurred adequately lit? Inadequate lighting is one of the most common factors that make property owners liable for criminal and wrongful acts of a third party on their property.
- History. Did the property have prior occurrences of similar acts? If similar acts occurred on the premises in the past, the owner of the property could have taken certain measures to prevent such attacks in the future. Failure to do so makes the property owner responsible. Only a Los Angeles premises liability attorney can help you access information about past crimes and incidents that occurred on the property owner’s premises to strengthen the validity of your claim and recover a larger compensation.
- Security. Many criminal acts occur due to inadequate security measures taken by the owner of the property to prevent wrongful and criminal acts on their property. These measures include but are not limited to security personnel, guards, cameras, security alarms, functioning security hardware such as locks, etc.
Let our best premises liability attorneys in Los Angeles County and elsewhere in California establish that a property owner is liable for your injuries and damages caused by a criminal or wrongful act of a third party on their property.