Malls are an interesting example of privately owned public spaces. Like any public space where a significant number of people interact, there’s always a chance of something happening at a mall that could lead to personal injury. When the personal injury arises from what could be broadly described as a “security incident,” such as a fight between two patrons or a random shooting, the victims may want to explore filing suit against the owner or operator of the mall. But what obligations does a mall have to provide security?
Premises liability and security considerations
Someone who is injured in a purely accidental way at a mall often has a cause of action under the theory of premises liability. The law of premises liability requires businesses to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition for use. Sprague v. Lucky Stores, 109 Nev. 247, 250 (1993). If a business fails to comply with this rule and a patron is injured as a consequence, the business may be liable for negligence.
A typical example of a premises liability case is a slip-and-fall on a wet floor at a supermarket. Provided the supermarket caused the wet floor (for example, an employee mopped the floor and left it wet) or knew or had reason to know the floor was wet (a customer dropped a bottle of wine, or the wet spot had been there for long enough that the store should have discovered it) premises liability probably will apply.
Negligent security is a variation of premises liability. In Nevada business have a legal duty to prevent foreseeable criminal acts against visitors. Providing security is one way a business can do this, but the scope of the obligation will vary by the location and nature of the business. For example, a small strip mall may only be obligated to ensure that its parking lot and other publicly accessible spaces are well lit at night. But a large mall probably needs more: surveillance cameras, on-site guards, and so on.
Foreseeability can be a significant question
For a mall owner or operator to be liable for negligent security the event giving rise to the plaintiff’s injury must have been foreseeable and criminal. Foreseeability poses an interesting problem for some plaintiffs. One might successfully argue that muggings, sexual assault, and fist fights are all foreseeable possibilities in a place where large numbers of people congregate. But is a random shooting incident also foreseeable? In these times perhaps the answer is yes, but the next question is: what reasonable steps can a mall take to prevent such events?
Negligent security focuses on violent criminal behavior. Boorish and even harassing behavior isn’t necessarily criminal, even if the victim has a potential civil cause of action against the perpetrator. By the same token, however, providing a safe environment probably requires intervention in some otherwise noncriminal situations. This list of a mall security officer’s duties includes mediating disagreements between patrons. In some cases a security officer may make a situation worse, and may end up committing negligence as a consequence.
Talk to a personal injury lawyer about your case
Premises liability, and in particular negligent security, is a complex topic that relies heavily on the specific facts of each incident. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured clients recover compensation. If you have been injured in an incident at a mall and you questions about your legal options to seek compensation from the mall’s owner or operator, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our contact page.