Negligent Security Lawyer Orlando | Florida Negligent Security Law 101
As an Orlando negligent security lawyer, I frequently receive calls from people who have been seriously injured, or killed, due to negligent security practices of property owners. Negligent security basically means poor security protection measures, such as bad lighting, broken windows, gates, doors, or locks, poorly trained or non-existent security guards, and the like. I thought you might appreciate learning want to know what types of cases might lead to a successful bad (negligent) security case.
This article includes a comprehensive overview of negligent security law in Florida. We reviewed ALL Florida case law on negligent security, then explained how those cases would be handled by Florida courts. We also include a discussion of the only Florida negligent security statute, which deals with trespassers.
This article includes some little-known exceptions to the prior crime requirement, which might cause other Florida negligent security lawyers to reject good negligent security cases. We pride ourselves on finding arguments that other lawyers frequently overlook.
This article also includes insider tips regarding exactly how we handle Florida negligent security cases (meaning what steps we take in litigation).
If you need an Orlando negligent security lawyer (or need a negligent security attorney anywhere in Florida), you should call or text anytime, to have us evaluate whether you might have a strong case.
Negligent security is one type of personal injury lawsuit, for which you should hire an Orlando personal injury lawyer.
Negligent Security Lawyer Orlando: What Types Of Negligent Security Cases Do We Pursue?
“Bad” security is really “negligent security,” which is a type of “premises liability” lawsuit in Florida. Usually, a random crime is involved, such as a mugging, rape, robbery, sexual assault, assault, battery, shooting or stabbing. Since the crime was random and caused by a criminal, the business owner isn’t automatically liable.
So the question is when can business or property owners become liable for the criminal acts of third persons? The answer is when the owner knew or should have known, that the crime might happen (which usually means there were prior crimes on that same property or very nearby), and didn’t do enough to correct the problem.
Examples Of Good Florida Negligent Security Cases
The types of cases that might lead to a successful Florida negligent security lawsuit (IF there were also prior similar crimes at the same location or very nearby) include:
- shooting or stabbing death on any business property
- robbery in a bank parking lot
- rape in a hotel room
- assault & battery in a restaurant parking lot
- breaking and entering an apartment
- being hit in the head or body at a bar (such as a bar fight)
Typical Security Problems That Prove Negligent Security Cases
Whenever there is poor security, there may be a negligent security lawsuit. But these are some of the most common ways we prove that the security was negligent:
- poor lighting in hallways, stairs, walkways, and parking lots
- locks or keys that do not work properly on doors, windows, or gates
- common (shared) doors or windows left open
- security cameras or alarms that do not work
- gaps in fences
- negligence by a security guard (for example, he falls asleep, or leaves his post, or isn’t where he should be, or fails to perform regular security checks)
- failure to hire, train or supervise security guards
- not having enough security guards based on the property size & function
- not monitoring security cameras
- not responding to emergency calls or signals
- removal of prior security measures (for example, an apartment complex had security guards in the past, but stopped providing them)
- broken elevators, stairwells, or other means of exit (if those contributed to the crime)
- failure to warn of known dangers or threats, which are unknown to the victim
- failure to call the police when warranted
- failure to prevent entry of a known dangerous person onto the premises (if he or she was the perpetrator who harmed the plaintiff);
- failure to remove dangerous persons, who later cause harm
- failure to use laminated glass on buses or trains, when thrown rocks or other objects cause injuries, if there were prior incidents of missiles being thrown at the windows of those same vehicles
- darkened, closed, and locked bus stop, at night, in a high crime area (read case: 365 So. 2d 177), even though crime happened off the property
- being understaffed, so that maintenance couldn’t be performed, or other security measures couldn’t be taken
How Does An Orlando Negligent Security Lawyer Prove A Negligent Security Case?
There are many complex steps involved in proving a negligent security case. One of our biggest jobs is to gather evidence that helps prove your case. That takes a lot of time and is complicated. However, we’ve outlined the basics of how we prepare to prove your negligent security case below.
PLEASE don’t make the mistake of thinking that all negligent security lawyers go through all of these steps. There are MANY settlement mill law firms which absolutely do not!
Before filing any negligent security lawsuit:
- Using investigators pre-suit (or discovery after filing suit) try to find other defendants, in addition to the property owner. These documents might include security agreements, lease agreements, management agreements, and city, county or state licenses. These additional potential defendants might include security companies or maintenance companies, which may share some responsibility, and bring more money to the table during any court proceeding.
- Hire a security expert early. There are experts who can suggest violates that are present on the property, of things like building codes, and various industry standards. Proving violations of building codes, or published industry standards, help strengthen our case.
- We request public records in the form of police grid reports, which help us prove that the crimes were foreseeable (a legal requirement for moving forward with many negligent security cases is that they were foreseeable).
- If possible, speak to the police officer who investigated the crime. He or she may know something helpful about this particular property, or the surrounding area. Remember, the plaintiff (injured person) has the burden of proving that the crime was foreseeable, meaning the owner should have known a crime was likely to be committed. So we try to get any evidence we can find to help prove that fact.
- Speak to the prosecutor, if they have a suspect for the crime. (In many premises cases, the assailant is unknown; that doesn’t prevent us from pursuing the case.)
- Review local building codes for violations related to lighting, locks, shrubbery, and similar rules. Building code violations help us prove that the defendant was liable, and they are very common.
- If possible, we’d like to speak with the criminal regarding why he chose the location or his victim. He or she could help us prove that the landowner’s negligent in maintaining the property was the reason he picked the crime that he did. For example, if he thought he wouldn’t be seen due to poor lighting, that helps us prove that the landowner’s negligence contributed to the crime.
- Take photographs. Florida negligent security lawyers try to get photos of anything that proves lackluster security measures, such as broken locks, too high shrubs, bad lighting, signs about provisions for security, bars on windows (which help prove the owner knew this was a dangerous area), signs warning of danger or security, and the like.
- Visit the property, usually with our security expert. Orlando negligent security attorneys want to see anything that suggests poor security, so that we are better equipped to tell our client’s story later, either during a mediation or at trial if necessary.
- If the property was a mall, condo, or involved a homeowners association, then we might try to get information from their associations, regarding security measures, prior crimes on the property, or other helpful evidence.
- Check trade association rules, such as organizations for shopping centers, building managers, hotels, or convenience stores. These associations often have non-binding standards, suggested for their members. Violations of these standards can help us prove that the security was insufficient.
During the negligent security lawsuit, but before trial:
- Send written “discovery” to the defendants in the case. (These written requests are technically called interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admissions. They have different formats and governing rules. But the goal is to obtain answers, documents, and admissions, to gather helpful evidence in the case.)
- In these requests, which are many pages long, we request all sorts of information to help prove that the security was not good enough.
Document & information requests typically include personnel files, employee training and handbook information, budgeting for security measures, prior security complaints (which help prove that the defendant knew about prior crimes, if they exist), employee names, security company names, security guards on duty the night of the crime in question, information about any prior similar lawsuits brought against the company, security policies and procedures, any internal company letters or memos relating to crime & security, maintenance records, site plans, repair records of security-related things such as gates, locks, lighting, and doors, and service call logs.
- We might also issue subpoenas to third parties (meaning those not involved in the lawsuit), such as prosecutors to obtain case, prison, or probation files. And we might subpoena security, maintenance or repair companies.
- We try to speak with any witnesses to the crime or the aftermath. We also like to speak with witnesses who might know how you changed from before to after the crime (such as loss of ability to do prior life activities, due to serious injuries). And we might want to speak to your employer or colleagues if you want to pursue a lost wages claim.
- To prove your medical injuries, we have another long list of items. But we get that information from you, and your treating medical providers. So serious injury cases always involve a HUGE file of medical records and bills. These help us prove your injuries.
- If you have provable lost wages, we usually have another large stack of documents, which we need to prove your wages prior to the accident. Lost wages claims are appropriate when you have to stop working due to your injuries.
- If your doctor thinks that you may have future medical bills, we use his records or testimony to establish the likelihood of those bills, and what they will cost.
- During the lawsuit, we normally take numerous depositions. These are live (verbal) question-and-answer sessions, which are recorded and transcribed by a court reporter. We take depositions of anyone who might have information we need to prove the negligent security claim. This might include property managers, security guards, witnesses, and current or former employees.
- In wrongful death negligent security cases, such as shooting or stabbing cases, we seek another broad category of evidence, related mostly to the closeness of the lost family member. This might include things like photos of family vacations, videos talking about feelings of loss, therapist testimony, and the like. We also might include some lost wages discussion, if that is recoverable by the surviving family member (such as a surviving spouse). Typically that is most helpful for higher wage earners, but can still be significant for a younger person earning less money.
What Makes Successful Orlando Negligent Security Cases?
The first thing to understand is that property owners (like stores, malls, hotels, gyms, restaurants, apartment complex landlords, etc) are not automatically responsible for injuries or deaths that occur on their properties. Not even close.
The question is always whether the property owner somehow contributed to the outcome, usually through negligence of some sort. This is very often negligent security. For example, the property didn’t have any lights in the parking lot, which made the crime easier to commit.
Here’s the other catch, though. The crime had to be something the law calls “foreseeable.” (You can read more about the “foreseeability” requirement in the section below called “What Are The Elements Of A Florida Negligent Security Case?”)
In practical terms, successfully proving negligent security usually requires evidence proving that there have been prior crimes at the same location.
The landowner could also be liable if he controlled the person who committed the crime, such as an employee who was negligently hired, or if he knew that someone dangerous had been visiting the property.
So, bottom line, we need good evidence of BOTH prior crimes at the same location AND some form of negligent security (like broken locks or bad lighting).
Orlando trial judges will dismiss negligent security cases without adequate prior crime evidence (before the case ever gets to a jury).
Therefore, before we can accept a negligent security case, we must research crime statistics in the surrounding area, to learn whether the property owner probably “should have known” that a crime might take place. But that quick preliminary research (often performed by quick Google search) doesn’t give us a definitive answer. That means, even after we take the case, we might learn that we can’t prove the case in court (after we receive more complete police records).
Before We Can File A Florida Negligent Security Lawsuit
Once we begin working on the case, we must investigate further, to learn whether police records show that there were prior crimes at the same business location or very nearby.
We request official police records to discover all prior crimes in the area.
Proving prior crimes at the same business or very nearby is usually essential to a successful negligent security case (with limited exceptions, which we explain below). If our research reveals that there were no prior crimes at that business, or very few, then we may not be able to proceed with the case (unless one of the limited exceptions below applies).
What Are The Elements Of A Florida Negligent Security Case?
If you are not a lawyer, you might want to skip this section of the article because this section gets “into the weeds” about the technical legal requirements regarding what evidence is needed to prove a negligent security case in Florida. However, we have tried to make this understandable for non-lawyers.
If you would rather let us worry about making the complicated legal arguments, then you might want to skip below to the section giving an example of a negligent security case or the section discussing the potential value of a negligent security case.
Or just give us a call (or send us a text) if you were seriously injured, or lost a loved one, and believe negligent security on any business property might have been the reason.
Lawyers often refer to the “elements” of a legal case because we have to prove that each element exists, to get any recovery from the jury. This is a serious requirement. If there is NO evidence to support any of the elements, or not enough in the judge’s opinion, then the judge will dismiss the case without ever allowing a jury to reach a verdict (which means the plaintiff gets nothing).
As Orlando negligent security lawyers, we must make sure we have evidence to prove each element of any negligent security case, before we file a lawsuit. We try to make sure we will have enough evidence before we even accept the case (though we can’t be 100% sure until we get the police reports back). Many lawyers will accept any potential negligent security case without doing any preliminary research, which unnecessarily raises the clients’ hopes, only to let them down later. We do everything we can to verify the crime in the area before we accept any negligent security case, so that we have far fewer disappointed clients later.
The elements of negligent security are the same as regular negligence, except, in landlord tenant-cases, there can sometimes be arguments that the landlord breached the contract (such as a contractual promise to provide good security), or violated the Florida Landlord – Tenant Act.
So the four elements of negligent security are (1) a legal duty owed by defendant to plaintiff, (2) breach of that duty by defendant, (3) an injury to plaintiff legally caused by defendant’s breach, and (4) damages as a result of the injury.
In general, the landowner’s duty is to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition.
Proving negligent security becomes challenging because having a legal duty requires something called “foreseeability.” Here’s language from a Florida court talking about the foreseeability requirement in negligent security cases:
As a general rule, a landowner has no duty to protect an invitee on his premises from criminal attack by a person over whom the landowner has no control unless the criminal attack is reasonably foreseeable. It has also been said that, to impose such a duty upon the landowner, the invitee must allege and prove that the landowner had actual or constructive knowledge of prior similar acts committed upon invitees on the premises because a landowner should not be required to take precautions against a sudden attack which the landowner has no reason to anticipate. Thus, it appears that the foreseeability of criminal attack is essential to the concept of duty only in the sense that in the absence of another basis for imposing a legal duty the law does not require one to perform a specific act where that person has no knowledge or reason to know that such act is reasonably necessary to protect invitees on the premises.
There are a few types of cases that do not require us to prove foreseeability (meaning we do not have to show that there were prior similar crimes at the same location). You can read more about those in the exceptions sections below.
You can read the actual Florida judicial opinion discussing the elements of negligent security, and the foreseeability requirement to establish the duty element of negligent security, here.
For non-lawyers, the above paragraph is the main reason we MUST prove that there were prior similar crimes at the same location. There are other judicial opinions saying that we have to prove that any criminal attack was foreseeable, and any attack wasn’t foreseeable unless there were prior similar crimes at the same location.
Another Wrinkle To The Elements Of A Florida Negligent Security Case
There is another wrinkle to the elements of a Florida negligent security claim.
Technically, negligent security is a type of premises liability case. Premises liability cases are different from ordinary negligence because they involve passive, rather than active, negligence. That basically means that the landowner might be liable for failing to do something, rather than doing something in a negligent way (which would be active negligence).
The reason that distinction matters is because, with premises liability and passive negligence, the status of the person on the land matters. So lawyers get into technical arguments to establish whether someone visiting the property was a business invitee (this applies to most people visiting a business) or a trespasser (and the duties to trespassers are further subdivided into discovered and undiscovered, with landowners owing a higher duty to discovered trespassers).
This case explains the difference between active and passive negligence and why that matters in a negligent security case.
Florida Negligent Security Statute
The only statute regarding negligent security outlines the duty owed to trespassers only (see further discussion below, in the section discussing trespassers).
For those who were at a business location for normal business purposes, like a patron at a grocery store (who are called “business invitees,”) the trespassing statute doesn’t apply.
So the elements of negligent security, for business invitees, are established by common law, which means judicial opinions, in Florida.
(If you aren’t a lawyer, or even if you are, but don’t practice negligent security law, please don’t worry about whether you were a business invitee or a trespasser. The law is extremely complicated in that respect. You only need to tell us exactly what happened, and we will make the best arguments on your behalf. You only need to know that most people on business properties ARE business invitees, not trespassers, with limited exceptions.)
What Is The Definition Of Negligent Security?
Negligent security means that the landowner should have known that a crime was likely to happen on his property, due to prior crimes at the same location, so should have provided better security. If someone was the victim of a crime on his property, then negligent security allows us to pursue a legal case based on his failure to provide better security, whenever there were prior similar crimes at the same location.
If the property had GOOD security or NO prior crimes, then the case is not a good one.
Must There Have Been “Similar Crimes” At The Same Location To Prove Negligent Security?
There is one Florida case that considered whether prior criminal acts had to be similar to the crime suffered by the injured victim/plaintiff. The court considered that there were 58 pages of prior criminal incidents at the same bar where the crime in question took place. (Read case: 576 So.2d 322.) Although those crimes were factually NOT similar to the crime that was the basis of the negligent security lawsuit, the court held that the evidence was still admissible. Therefore, if you, or a family member, were the victim of crime at a place that has MANY other crimes, you definitely might have a strong negligent security case.
Security Guard, Alarm Company, or Landlord Exceptions To the Prior Crime Requirement In Orlando Negligent Security Cases
Normally, in negligent security cases, we must prove that there were prior similar crimes in the surrounding area. But there are some exceptions.
If the property had paid security guards, whose negligence contributed to the crime, then we would not have to prove that there were prior similar crimes in the area, to pursue a case against the security company. Read case: 899 So. 2d 361. The same thing would be true if the property had defective alarms installed and/or monitored by an alarm company (then we wouldn’t have to show similar crimes in the area to pursue a case). Read case: 132 So. 3d 1128
This same exception might also apply to any condominium or homeowners’ association that hired a negligent security company. Read case: 900 So. 2d 587
Lastly, this exception could apply if the victim’s landlord promised security, advertised good security, provided security that was negligent, failed to properly maintain locks on doors, windows or gates, failed to keep common areas safe, or removed prior security measures that existed on the property. (There is no requirement to prove that the crime was foreseeable in these cases, because the claims are breach of contract, rather than negligence.) Read case: 472 So. 2d 1210
“Special Relationship” Exception To The Prior Crime Requirement In Florida Negligent Security Cases
Plaintiffs do not have to establish that there were prior crimes in the area in negligent security cases if the landowner had control over the assailant, and knew or should have known that the person was a likely danger to others. Read case: 780 So. 2d 328. This is the special relationship exception:
“One who takes charge of a third person whom he knows or should know to be likely to cause bodily harm to others if not controlled is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to control the third person to prevent him from doing such harm.”
This might apply, for instance, if an employee of a business, who had known violent tendencies, or a previous criminal record, attacked someone on the business property. The business owner could not then get the case dismissed on the grounds that there were no prior, foreseeable crimes in the area.
Can A Property Owner Be Liable For Negligent Security When Crimes Committed At Nearby Properties?
In limited scenarios, nearby property owners can be held liable for crimes committed on properties other than their own. A simple example would be if a hotel recommended that patrons park at an off-site location, and the patrons were victimized at the other location. Basically, anytime one business recommends that you go to another location to do something, we would want to take a close look. You can see an example case here.
One Example Of An Orlando Negligent Security Case
Just to give you one random case example, we recently settled a case against a popular mall in Orlando, Florida. An elderly lady had been walking through the parking lot, when an unknown assailant (criminal) attacked her in the parking lot, broke her arm, and required her to get surgery. She was seriously injured. The first question was whether there is a lot of crime in the area surrounding the mall, which we learned by researching local police data banks.
Once we decided there was enough crime in the area to justify pursuing a negligent security case, the next question was: were the existing security measures at the mall negligent? That required us to hire a security expert to find the flaws in their security systems. These vary from place to place but include things like placement and height of shrubs and lighting, the number of security guards, the frequency of security checks, etc. And those things might change from month-to-month even at the same business. So we can never know how strong the case might be, until we get into the lawsuit, and start digging for more information.
If the injuries were serious, or a death was involved, then we hire a security expert, who performs a site visit, takes photos, then completes a very extensive report. The negligent security expert’s report will have photos, combined with information showing us whether the business violated any security codes or known / best security practices. We then use that expert’s opinion during any mediation or trial of the negligent security case. These reports are very helpful in persuading the mediator or jury that the security was not good enough, and likely contributed to the crime committed upon our client.
If a crime is foreseeable, Florida law requires that the property owners maintain reasonable security. That doesn’t mean perfect security, but they do need to provide certain specific security features (which vary depending on the type of property, and amount & type of crime in the area).
What Is The Value Of A Negligent Security Case?
With all Orlando negligent security cases, the value of the bad security cases is determined by a combination of these factors: (1) the seriousness and permanence of the injury; (2) the effect the injury has had on the daily life of the person who was injured; (3) the DEGREE of negligence by the property owner; and (important) (4) any negligence by the crime VICTIM (meaning our client, or our client’s deceased family member in wrongful death cases).
For example, if the victim was injured after starting a fight, the case might have less value. But, in those cases, it is extremely important that our client tells us about anything the victim might have done wrong so that we can work to minimize the impact of that “bad fact” on the case.
With those factors in mind, a negligent security case that we choose to accept will typically range from about $50,000 (if we realize during the case that the facts are very bad, like the doctor says that the clients injuries weren’t caused by the accident, or the injuries completely heal) to several million (usually the highest involve death cases with multiple survivors (as defined by the Florida wrongful death statute) or very catastrophic injury cases).
Once we have decided to accept a case, the seriousness of the injury is a very key factor in determining the case value. But the degree of negligence (of the property owner) is a close second. In other words, let’s say you experienced an injury that required surgery. But, let’s also say that the property owner had pretty good security. (If the crime happened in a low crime area, we wouldn’t even accept the case.) If the security was decent but still negligent, the value of the case would be lower. That’s determined by a security expert, who we hire to tell us any and all security measures the property owner should have taken. If the property security was terrible, then the case value would be higher.
The only way to know for sure is to give us a call. We will investigate all details before recommending any specific settlement value. If you have the type of case that we might accept, we will also explain the process in much more detail. We pride ourselves on giving our clients all of the information they need to make informed decisions about the value of their cases.
Does It Matter If You Were Invited Onto The Property?
Florida law does have different standards of care for guests, invitees, and trespassers. Generally speaking, unless you were trespassing, these technical legal distinctions have minimal real-world impact and will do nothing but confuse you.
Do You Have A Negligent Security Claim If You Were Trespassing?
If you were trespassing, then landowners owe you a lower duty of care. The landowner’s duty of care is even lower if you were intoxicated, or under the influence of drugs, while trespassing.
However, those who are visiting a store, mall, restaurant, or any other business, usually are considered invitees, not trespassers, under Florida law. “Invitees” can become trespassers, to a business, if they are asked to leave the premises.
If you were a trespasser, the relevant Florida statute (read statute: F.S. 768.075) says:
To avoid liability to undiscovered trespassers, a person or organization owning or controlling an interest in real property must refrain from intentional misconduct that proximately causes injury to the undiscovered trespasser, but has no duty to warn of dangerous conditions.
To avoid liability to discovered trespassers, a person or organization owning or controlling an interest in real property must refrain from gross negligence or intentional misconduct that proximately causes injury to the discovered trespasser, and must warn the trespasser of dangerous conditions that are known to the person or organization owning or controlling an interest in real property but that are not readily observable by others.
What If You Were On Public Property, Like a Government Building, Or Sidewalk?
Florida greatly limits liability against the government, which means we usually do not accept cases against government entities. (Other lawyers do; we just do not.) However, if you were on a sidewalk, then the question is who owns the sidewalk? If the sidewalk is right in front of a popular store or restaurant, then there is a chance the business owner has some liability. We can’t know for sure until we talk to you, and examine the specific facts of your case.
If you think you have a potential negligent security case, please give us a call. We provide free, fast, and convenient telephone consultations for all seriously injured victims. If you would like to meet in person, we will gladly do so, after an initial telephone conversation. Or we can get you signed up by email, and provide telephonic instructions. There are many things that must happen very quickly in any negligent security case, to secure evidence needed to prove the case. So please don’t delay calling or texting us today.