When people think about accidents on business properties, they usually think of slip and fall incidents at hotels, grocery stores, on icy sidewalks, etc. Many do not realize that the concept of “premises liability”—or responsibility for maintaining a safe environment on your property—applies to many other contexts, including security issues on property, when the owner knows of a safety issue (particularly if a crime has taken place in that capacity before) and he or she fails to take action to remedy it.
In states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, landlords have a duty to provide a safe environment for tenants and their guests, as well as other visitors. Typically, this duty applies to “common areas” such as laundry facilities, shared gardens, swimming pool areas, hallways, recreation rooms, and other areas outside of personal living space that is accessible by the public.
Landlords must also ensure that living spaces are adequately secure, for example, by ensuring that door and window locks work, that, in some instances, certain windows have bars on the outside, etc. in order to ensure that someone seeking to engage in criminal activity does not have easy access. Victims can also argue that adequate lighting is necessary in common spaces such as parking lots and hallways. Landlords also have a duty to warn residents if particular areas have been the subject of a previous crime.
It is no surprise that ATM machines are a target for criminal activity. Although banks are not required to keep a security guard near the ATM machines at all times, they can provide restricted access, which helps protect customers while on the premises. In many of these types of cases, the history of a particular area, the knowledge of the business owner, and the risk to others are key. However, whether or not there is a “duty” to protect a “customer” largely depends upon whether the harm was foreseeable. Although businesses arguably cannot always be responsible for the criminal activity of third parties, if they know that they are occurring or have a high potential to occur, they need to take reasonable precautions to protect against them.
We hear about students getting assaulted on college campuses all too frequently. In some instances, universities and other facilities are liable for these repetitive crimes under premises liability law. Although courts are hesitant to find that colleges and universities owe a particular duty to protect students, they should make basic efforts to ensure that students are safe while on campus. Some of these basic measures are similar to those that apply to landlords for apartment buildings—locked entrances, fencing, etc.
Solnick & Associates
The Pennsylvania premises liability lawyers at Solnick & Associates represent victims who have been injured in accidents on someone else’s property that has been rendered unsafe for them. We serve Philadelphia and surrounding areas, including Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties, as well as New Jersey. Contact us today for a free consultation.