Lawsuits Against Landlords, Owners and Businesses in Pennsylvania for Shootings, Assaults, Etc.
Under Pennsylvania law, landlords, property owners and businesses can be held liable for criminal activity like shootings, assaults, etc. The key is foreseeability, or whether the landlord/owner could have foreseen the criminal activity. Usually that requires evidence of prior, similar incidents.
In this legal article, our Philadelphia injury lawyers discuss the basics of lawsuits against landlords, property owners and others for criminal acts by third parties.
Security & Negligence Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
It is pretty well-established in Pennsylvania that individuals who are injured due to the criminal acts of others have legal rights to seek financial compensation against negligent parties. This often includes landlords, property owners and commercial entities or businesses like restaurants, bars, shopping malls, etc. Patrons or customers, tenants, guests of tenants and others who are lawfully on the property can make these types of personal injury claims.
In order to succeed, the injured individual (plaintiff) has to prove each of the following:
- The defendant owed them a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty (was negligent).
- The negligent conduct caused the injury.
Negligence is defined as either doing something you shouldn’t be doing or not doing something you should be doing. In the context of negligent security cases, i.e., those involving security breaches or criminal conduct, negligence can occur in two ways. First, a defendant can be negligent by taking some affirmative step that causes an incident. For example, a bar in Philadelphia hires a bouncer who has a violent criminal record. If the bouncer starts a fight with a patron, the bar could be liable for taking the affirmative step – hiring someone with a violent criminal background.
Second, a defendant can be negligent by failing to do something it should have done, i.e., negligence by omission. This type of negligence is much more common in negligent security cases than the first type of negligence. In fact, in the majority of injury cases involving criminal conduct of a third party, the basis of liability is the defendant’s failure to take appropriate action in the face of known criminal activity. Typically, this involves failing to warn people of the danger or failing to take reasonable security measures like hiring more security guards, increasing patrols, installing video cameras or enhancing lighting conditions.
Examples of Liability for Criminal Acts of Others
Landlord Liable for Shooting
A residential landlord of a large apartment complex in Philadelphia becomes aware that a tenant is engaging in drug dealing out of his apartment. Multiple tenants have complained about people coming and going at all hours of the night. One tenant complained about having been threatened with a gun during an argument over a parking spot. These types of complaints are made over the course of several months. In the most recent incident, the police are called to the complex one evening after a report of gun shots in the entryway of the same building where the problem tenant lives. However, police are unable to locate the shooter or a gun and take no action. Bullet holes are visible in a wall in the entryway. The landlord is notified of the incident and patches the bullet holes, but otherwise takes no other action. A new tenant moves into an apartment next door to the problem tenant. The new tenant is never advised of the situation with the gun or the problem tenant. A few weeks after moving in, the new tenant is shot and killed after he attempted to confront the problem tenant about excessive noise.
In this instance, the family of the deceased tenant would have a valid lawsuit against the landlord for failing to evict the tenant or at a minimum, warning the new tenant. There is ample evidence that the landlord knew about the problem, but failed to take any appropriate action at all.
Bar or Restaurant Liable for Assault
A bar/restaurant in the Philly suburbs has a reputation for serving stiff drinks. A group of young men go to the bar to watch a football game. One member of the group, who is very drunk, starts an argument with another customer. The drunk individual continues drinking over the next hour and continues harassing the other customer. He then bashes a beer bottle over the customer’s face, causing severe cuts and lacerations.
Here, the bar would be liable for serving alcohol to the man who committed the assault. Under PA law, it’s illegal for servers to serve alcohol to someone who is already visibly intoxicated. The facts show that the man was already drunk when he started the argument and then continued to drink alcohol until he finally assaulted the customer. The employees should have stopped serving alcohol to the man and kicked him out of the bar.
Philadelphia Injury Lawyers – Negligent Security Lawsuits for Criminal Acts
We represent victims of crime in lawsuits against landlords, property owners and businesses after a shooting, assault, etc. In a recent case, our law firm recovered significant compensation for the victim of a shooting in a private home. We conduct a full investigation to find all parties who may be held liable.
Call us for a free consultation. (215) 985-0777