South Florida Homicide Raises Negligent Security Issues

If you live in south Florida you may recall the very tragic case of a 19-year-old chef who was murdered in her apartment in the City of Oakland Park last year. On June 3rd, 2014 police say that the killer entered through a sliding-glass door and stabbed the victim several times. Then he stole her wallet.

The victim’s family is now suing the owners of the Bridgewater Place gated apartment complex where the horrible crime occurred as well as a security company for failing to provide adequate security, proper lighting, and sufficient locks. These elements are all part of an area of law known as security negligence and premises liability and Florida Statute 768 covers these issues.

The Chapter is very broad and covers the many responsibilities imparted to a property owner as well as limits to liability. For example, certain types of property must have adequate security lighting and security cameras. Another responsibility of property owners is to ensure that their employees have been screened by running a background check.

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Negligent Security and Premise Liability Law in Florida

Property and business owners in Florida would be wise to maintain their premises in good order and free from any hazards that could injure a person who visits the property.
Many people are under the impression that if someone visits their property without permission, they are therefore not liable for any injuries or damage that may happen. This is not necessarily true.

Some of the terms that may be used to define injurious incidents occurring on property are gross negligence, ordinary negligence, premise liability, intentional misconduct and duty of care. Terms used to define persons who enter or visit property include uninvited guests, undiscovered guests, invited guests, and trespassers. Finally, some of the categories defining property types are private property, community property and public property.

You can see that this is going to get complicated.

A recent case in Palm Beach County involved an injured person’s status, the type of property, and owner liability or negligence and was the subject of a decision by the 4th District Court of Appeals. The incident involved a woman who was attending a party at an apartment complex. The woman was shot in the leg by a third party, and later sued the owners of the complex for negligence, saying they did not provide adequate security.

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Negligent Security – ATM Safety

You’re on the way out for the evening, speaking to your friend as you drive: “I’ll just pop by the ATM and grab some cash.” You pull up to your bank and park in front, jump out of the car and leave the motor running. “Should I pull out $200 or $300?” you ask your friend. You’re in a hurry so you grab the cash and leave the receipt sticking out of the machine, dashing back to the car.

Several mistakes were made in this scenario, mistakes that may have opened the door to a serious crime. Every day there are stories like this in the news:

Bonita Springs – Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers is trying to identify the suspect who robbed a woman after she withdrew cash from a Bonita Springs ATM.
According to detectives, the victim withdrew $200 at the Suncoast School Credit Union ATM on Chamber of Commerce Drive shortly after 2:30 p.m. on January 10th.

As the victim walked back to her car, an unknown man grabbed the money from her hands and ran to a gray Toyota or Honda waiting nearby. A witness to the crime chased after the suspect, but eventually lost him after he sped off behind the shopping center.

People assume that because ATMs have security cameras and there are guards inside the bank, they are safe. This is not necessarily so.

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What is Negligent Security and How Does it Affect You?

We all want to feel safe in our homes, at work, and when we’re out and about. Stopping at the grocery store to use the ATM, we assume there is adequate security to assure our safety. That may not always be true, however.

What level of responsibility does a store, or any business have when it comes to providing adequate security? The answer depends on what state you are in and what the law says in that state pertaining to reasonable measures for security.

A general description of security responsibility is:

A landowner has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect against foreseeable criminal conduct. This duty is applicable to all types of business where you have business invitees: retailers, condominium associations, apartments, hotels, restaurants, bars, malls, etc.
It is the responsibility of a store owner, for example, to be aware of crime grids, recent dangerous incidents, and other hazards. They must take reasonable steps to make sure customers are safe. Cameras, security guards, and other preventive actions should be implemented for safety’s sake.

In Florida, there are specific statutes covering liability as it pertains to incidents that may involve security negligence. Chapter 768 addresses negligence.

For example, convenience stores are known for being susceptible to robberies, but Florida Statute 768.0705 states that the owner of a convenience store who implements applicable security measures may gain a presumption against liability resulting from criminal acts which occur as the result of a 3rd party.

Therefore, in contrary circumstances, where applicable security measures are not implemented, the owner may be deemed to be negligent and may be liable for damages.
What are these security measures? According to Florida Statute 812.173 the premises should have:

– security camera system – drop safe or cash management device;
– lighted parking lot;
– notice in the form of signage that the cash register contains less than $50;
– unobstructed window signage;
– height markers;
– a cash management policy;
– no window tinting;
– a silent alarm.

If a criminal act which causes harm to an individual was committed by an employee, there are additional considerations and statutes covering same:

Did the employer conduct a background check? Were the employee’s references checked? Did the employee complete an application with proper questions regarding previous criminal convictions?

There are instances where other factors may affect a business owner’s liability, for example: was the victim invited, or was he or she trespassing? Was the victim drunk? Was the victim complicit with the person committing the criminal act?

As you can see, the area of negligent security is complex, and Law Firm of Lazarus and Lazarus
has a great deal of experience in this field throughout the state of Florida. Gary and Arleen Lazarus have successfully represented many victims of negligent security and they are eminently qualified and versed in the statutes and precedents regarding these situations.

If you or someone close to you has been the victim of harm due to negligent security, a call to 954-356-0006 will connect you with Gary, Arleen, and their professional and caring staff.