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Premises Liability

The duty to provide security in an unpredictable world

In a decision issued in late August, the New York Supreme Court in Kings County reminded litigants, government authorities, property owners, building landlords and transit authorities that security is a pervasive aspect of everyday life because of the violent and unpredictable world in which we live. The Court allowed a premises liability lawsuit to proceed against a New York City restaurant and lounge for the wounding of a customer in a shooting at the establishment.

The Court noted that property owners must exercise reasonable care to provide for the security of members of the public who are allowed on the property. Landlords may be liable for harm if they discovered that harmful acts are being done and likely to be done or do not provide adequate warning to visitors.

Property owners, however, are not insurers of their visitors’ safety. Even where there has been extensive criminal history at the property, the owner does not have the duty to undertake protective measures unless the owner knows, or has reason to know from earlier experiences, that there is a likelihood that a third party will commit acts that endanger visitors and the owner does not take precautions.

In this case, the defendant bar experienced two earlier gun incidents and other violent activity including dangerous assaults, robberies and disorderly conduct and employed unlicensed security guards. The court ruled that a bar has the duty to protect its patrons when its owner has reasonable cause to anticipate behavior from others which is likely to endanger patrons. Accordingly, according to the court, this earlier activity presented issues that could proceed to trial on whether adequate security was provided.

This case underlies both the peril that sometimes await persons entering buildings, waiting for a subway or visiting a bar. Proving a landlord negligence lawsuit for serious injuries and other harm caused by these dangers may require legal assistance to gather evidence and meet the burden of proof.

Source: JUSTIA US LAW, “Ware v. P.J.’s Cocktail Lounge & Restaurant, Inc., 2015 NY Slip Op 51285(U)(August 31, 2015)” Retrieved Sept. 8, 2015

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