As you may know, Fox Sports personality, Erin Andrews, is seeking $75 million in damages from the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt, alleging negligent security. Andrews alleges that the hotel provided negligent security when it allowed a man named Michael David Barrett to reserve the room next to hers, rig her room’s peephole with a camera and record video of Andrews changing clothes. Although there is no question that Mr. Barrett’s actions were disturbing and criminal, the case poses an interesting question: when is a property owner liable for injuries resulting from the criminal acts of others?
In Pennsylvania, the owner of a property is liable for negligent security in failing to prevent harm caused by the criminal acts of others if the owner fails to use reasonable care to (a) discover that such acts are being done or are likely to be done, or (b) give a warning adequate to enable the visitors to avoid the harm, or otherwise to protect them against it. Generally, the owner of the property is under no duty to provide any security until he knows or has reason to know that the criminal acts of another are occurring, or are about to occur. However, the owner may know or have reason to know, from past experience, that there is a likelihood of criminal conduct occurring in general on his property which is likely to endanger the safety of visitors. If the property or character of the owner’s business, or his past experience, is such that he should reasonably anticipate criminal conduct on the property, he may be under a duty to take precautions against it, and to provide reasonable protection. The failure of an owner to take proper precautions and any harm resulting therefrom will result in a negligent security claim.
Negligent security cases often arise in the context of a particular customer’s past conduct. For example, a bar owner may be liable for the violent acts of a regular customer where the customer is a known trouble maker with a violent history. The more difficult negligent security cases arise not from a particular customer’s known past conduct, but rather, from knowledge on the part of the owner that criminal acts are being committed on the property, or, from knowledge that the character of the neighborhood in which the property is located is dangerous and potentially criminal acts are likely to occur on the property. In such circumstances owners may be required to employ reasonable security measures which depend on a number of factual circumstances including the character of the neighborhood, the size of the property, available lighting, etc. For example, the owner of a property in a neighborhood with a high crime rate may be under an obligation to employ security personnel, install adequate lighting, secure fencing, etc. to protect lawful visitors to the property.
If Erin Andrews were able to prove that the Marriott had knowledge of Mr. Barrett’s criminal behavior, the hotel would certainly be obligated to provide reasonable security measures to ensure the criminal behavior did not occur on their property. If, on the other hand, the Marriott had no knowledge of Mr. Barrett’s criminal behavior, they may still be under an obligation to provide reasonable protection to Erin Andrews from possible criminal behavior if they should have reasonably anticipated the likelihood of criminal conduct. Whether the Marriott should have reasonably anticipated that someone like Mr. Barrett would commit a criminal act is an intensive factual question that is to be decided by a jury.
If you or a loved one has been injured by the criminal actions of another committed on someone else’s property, it is important to have your case evaluated by an experienced attorney. Goebert Law LLC has the experience to analyze the complex factual requirements of your particular case. Additionally, Goebert Law LLC maintains professional relationships with security experts in this field so that a proper analysis can be made of any security measure in place at the time of an injury.
In general, the statute of limitations for a negligent security claim is two (2) years and begins to run at the time of the injury. It is therefore important that you act expeditiously and have your claim evaluated by an experienced attorney. Please contact Goebert Law LLC for a free consultation and evaluation of any negligent security claim you may wish to pursue.