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How does your building's security match up?

March 22, 2015

Security plan vs. foreseeable claims threats. Are premises liability claims preventable even in the event of a threat?

Adam Hurley

Head of Real Estate Zurich North America

Adam Hurley is Head of the Real Estate customer industry segment for Zurich North America. He is... About this expert

security guard

Don’t create a false state of security by simply relying on this technology alone — especially now, when we are starting to see a trend in premises liability lawsuits filed by crime victims.

These plaintiffs typically allege they could have escaped injury if a defendant business or property owners had provided adequate security against a foreseeable crime risk on their property.

But, more often than not, we can’t foresee an attack on a shopping center, a gun shooting at a movie theatre, or other incidents.

Even with this in mind, attorneys stress that these potentially costly and reputation-damaging claims represent the fastest-growing area of tort law.

Equally noteworthy, attorneys say, is that plaintiffs have an easier time these days getting their cases to juries.

In court, the best outcome for defendants in inadequate security cases is for judges to simply dismiss them early — juries never hear the case. If the plaintiff cannot show that the property owner or defendant should have foreseen certain risks on their property, such a summary judgment would be beneficial to the property owner.

How Does Your Buildings Security Match Up?This once was a high legal hurdle, as plaintiffs had to demonstrate that defendants were aware of imminent harm to visitors. States, however, eventually lowered their foreseeability standards, requiring plaintiffs to illustrate only that similar criminal acts previously had occurred on defendants’ property. Many states have adopted even more lenient standards that make it easier for the plaintiff to pursue the case.

In addition, this also allows judges to consider criminal activity near defendants’ property, the nature of defendants’ businesses and other factors that judges deem relevant if other factors suggest that defendants should have foreseen risk to visitors.

The Taking Steps to Secure a Building video provides helpful tips on securing a building.

Could your security measures deter crime? And if they’re not foolproof, would a jury find they were reasonably robust, considering the threats you should have anticipated?