What Is Security Negligence?

Property owners in Tennessee owe special duties of care to keep their premises safe for visitors. In general, these duties require landowners to repair known defects, search for hidden hazards, and warn visitors of known dangers on a property. One of the risks a property owner must reasonably prevent is security breaches, such as robberies or assaults. Negligent security is a breach of this duty if it causes harm to visitors. Here’s what to know about this premises liability law in the state of Tennessee.

Business Owners’ Duties of Care to Customers

Business owners in Tennessee owe the highest standards of care to shoppers and invited guests. Customers at a business are “invitees” in the eyes of the law – the highest level of property guest. Business owners must take ample care to reasonably prevent harm to customers while on the property. This includes fixing sidewalks, parking lots, stairways, and buildings to prevent foreseeable accidents. It may also include taking “reasonable” measures to prevent criminal activity, based on the criminal record in the area.

What is reasonable for a business owner to do to prevent incidents depends upon the location of the property. Every owner has a duty to research the history of the location, searching for issues such as crimes committed on the property in the past, a high rate of crime in the neighborhood, and complaints about security issues from customers (or tenants in an apartment building). From this research, the owner should understand any foreseeable risks of harm or criminal activity that might threaten invitees. The owner must then take steps to reasonably prevent crimes from occurring.

The law does not list precisely what “reasonable” security methods might be for a property owner; instead, it is up to the courts to decide whether a “reasonable and prudent” landowner would have done something differently than the defendant in the same circumstances. Examples of actions that might suffice as security measures include hiring guards, installing cameras or brighter lights, repairing locks, putting bars over the windows, and posting signs such as “Cash register only has $20 at all times.”

When Can You File a Lawsuit for Negligent Security?

After becoming the victim of a criminal assault or attack, you might assume your only recourse will come from criminal charges against the perpetrator. If you were on someone else’s property at the time of the incident, however, this might not be the case. You might also have grounds for a civil claim against the owner of the property or your landlord. The following elements are necessary for bringing a premises liability lawsuit against someone for negligent security:

  • The defendant was in control of the property at the time of the incident. The defendant can be the property owner, but it could also be someone who was in control of or operating it at the time of the attack, such as a landlord or a company that’s leasing a commercial building.
  • The defendant was negligent. To have a claim against the defendant for negligent security, you must have proof that the defendant breached his/her duties in some way. For example, the landowner knew or should have known that the property had a criminal history yet failed to take any measures to prevent incidents.
  • The negligence caused your accident and injuries. You must also show that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries – in other words, that the attack would not have happened but for the defendant’s actions or inactions. Finally, you need to prove that you suffered compensable damages as a result.

Contact a Nashville personal injury attorney after any type of security-related incident on someone else’s property in Tennessee. You could be eligible for financial compensation if the property owner was negligent in some way that caused or contributed to the attack. It’s easier to navigate these types of claims with legal representation.