Negligent Security Lawsuits

On this page, our lawyers will explain the basics of negligent security lawsuits (also referred to as inadequate security lawsuits). Negligent security lawsuits are a subset of premises liability in which property owners are held liable for unsafe conditions that cause injury to visitors or customers. In negligent security cases, the property owner or business is held liable for failing to provide adequate security to protect guests from violence.

We will outline the basic elements of negligent security cases, which are the same in every state. We will also discuss the settlement payout value of inadequate security lawsuits across the country by discussing the factors that impact the value of these cases and looking at recent reported settlements and verdicts in prior cases.


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When Can You Sue for Negligent Security

Negligent security lawsuits are based on premises liability tort law. This means that the essential elements necessary to prove a negligent security claim are basically the same in every state, with some minor variations. To bring a successful negligent security lawsuit, a plaintiff needs to prove 3 things:

Duty: The plaintiff must show that the business or property owner had a duty or legal obligation to provide reasonable security features on the premises.

Breach: The plaintiff needs to establish that the business or property owner breached that duty and was somehow negligent in failing to ensure or maintain reasonable security on the premises.

Injury/Causation: Finally, the plaintiff needs to show that they were physically harmed on the premises and that their injuries were a direct and proximate result of the defendant’s negligent failure to provide reasonable security.

The first element (duty), is usually very simple to establish. The other 2 elements are often much more complex and circumstantial in nature. Sample Negligent Security Complaint

Property Owners Have an Obligation to Keep Visitors and Invitees Safe

The first element of an inadequate security case requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant (usually a property owner and/or a business operating on the property) had legal obligation provide security. In most cases, this element is very straight forward because any business or property that hosts customers, guests or other invitees has a general obligation under the law to ensure that the people they invite onto the premises are safe.

Literally any type or category of property owner or business can potentially be sued for negligent security. However, there are certain types of property owners that are most commonly named as defendants in negligent security lawsuits. The reasons these business or property owners are more frequently sued for inadequate security is usually a combination of 3 things: (1) they are types of businesses that are expected to provide high levels of security, (2) they are places where guests are frequently victims of violence, and (3) they have deep pockets or insurance. Below is a list of some of the most common types of defendants who can be held liable for inadequate security.

Hotels / Motels: Hotels, motels, or any other businesses that provide overnight accommodations to guests have an obligation to provide a very high level of protection and security to those guests. For that reason, anytime a guest is a victim of violence on the hotel premises, that hotel can potentially be held liable for negligent security.

Apartment Complexes: Apartment complexes are frequently sued and held liable for providing negligent security to residents and their guests. Like hotels, apartment complexes are obligated to provide a very high level of security compared to other types of businesses or property owners. Most apartment complexes are expected to provide everything from gated access to common areas, video surveillance systems, adequate lighting, working lock systems, and even 24-hour security guards.

Retail Stores / Shopping Centers: All types of retail stores (from gas stations to jewelry stores) are expected to take reasonable measures to protect the safety of their customers. The same is true not just for individual retail stores, but also for larger shopping centers or malls. The level of security required at these businesses is lower compared to hotels and apartments, but they are still expected to provide proper lighting for parking and other areas, video surveillance, and possibly security guards or limited access parking.

Bars / Nightclubs: Nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and other places where alcohol is consumed by patrons have an obligation to protect patrons from violence, which includes protection from assault by other patrons at the bar.

Hospitals: Hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities need to ensure that patients and other visitors are reasonably protected from violence both inside the hospital and in common areas such as parking lots and pickup areas.

Schools: Schools have a legal duty to keep students safe from violence, both from other students and non-students and staff. This duty is very circumstance specific, but it may require security screening, responding to credible threats, and possibly hiring school security. This is one area where negligent security laws differ significantly among states. Some states restrict the ability to hold public schools liable for torts while others do not.

Proving Inadequate Security

To succeed in a negligent security lawsuit, plaintiffs must show that the defendant was negligent because they failed to provide reasonably adequate security on the premises. This is often the pivotal issue in a negligent security lawsuit. It is not enough to make a general allegation that the defendant provided inadequate security simply based on the fact that the plaintiff was the victim of violence on the premises. The plaintiff needs to specifically identify what aspect of the security on the premises was lacking, and how that directly led to what happened to them.

So what exactly does inadequate security mean? What level of security is required? Adequate security is defined as the amount of security that a reasonable business owner would be expected to provide under the circumstances. This is a highly subjective and circumstantial definition under which almost any shortcoming or failure can be considered negligent security. Below are examples of some common types of negligent security claims that are frequently asserted in negligent security cases.

Inadequate Locks: Having a secure, functioning lock or limited access system is a critical security measure. However, this only applies to certain types of businesses, such as hotels, or apartments. Retailers, shopping centers, and other types of establishments where public access is necessary are not expected to provide this.

Inadequate Lighting: Darkness invites criminal activity, so ensuring the premises is well lighted is often a basic element of security expected on all types of properties and businesses. This is a frequent claim in negligent security cases because property owners and business often neglect to maintain lighting systems in outdoor areas, such as parking lots. The plaintiff simply needs to show that the poor lighting facilitated the violent crime.

Lack of Video Cameras: Video surveillance deters criminal activity and it also enables help to be dispatched when events do occur. Failure to provide video surveillance can be grounds for a negligent security lawsuit, however, plaintiffs relying on this theory would need to show that the video system would have actually prevented their injuries. That can be difficult since video systems are designed more to catch offenders after the fact, although they certainly do have some deterrent effect.  Certain types of properties, such a hotels, apartment complexes, or shopping centers, arguably have an obligation to ensure that guests are safe by having a functioning video surveillance system.

Lack of Security Staff: Not all types of businesses are expected to provide for onsite security guards. However, onsite security staff is a reasonable expectation for specific types of businesses and under certain circumstances. For example, bar and nightclubs are expected to have security staff to break up fights and remove intoxicated patrons.

Settlement Value of Negligent Security Lawsuits

Compared to most other types of premises liability cases, negligent security lawsuits tend to have a very high potential settlement payout value. This is partly because most negligent security lawsuits originate from very serious acts of violence such as rape, murder, or major assaults. As a result, the injuries and damages involved in these cases are often quite extensive. Below are summaries of some verdicts and settlements from recent negligent security lawsuits from across the country.

$335,426 Verdict (Florida 2022): A 27-year-old woman picked up her 5-year-old daughter from daycare and stopped at Citgo gas station and convenience store on the way home to get snacks. Two large groups of teenagers gathered at the gas station and got into a big fight in which guns were involved. As the woman attempted to drive away, she was struck by a stray bullet and died. Her estate sued the Citgo gas station for negligent security and a jury in Orange County, Florida awarded $335,000.

$103,096 Verdict (Illinois 2023): The plaintiffs, 2 females in their 20s, were patrons at nightclub in Chicago. They claimed that they suffered various physical injuries when they were struck and assaulted during a fight at the club involving other patrons and security staff. They sued the nightclub for negligent security and were awarded $103k in damages, but the award was reduced by 10% based on comparative negligence.

$1,050,000 Verdict (Florida 2022): A 23-year-old male, was shot and killed at 4:30 am while a patron of the Tropicana Bar and Nightclub in Miami. A negligent security lawsuit was filed against both the owner and operator of the nightclub and the owner of the property that the nightclub leased. The lawsuit claimed that the defendants failed to properly hire, train, supervise and retain staff, including bouncers, failed to provide adequate security to protect is patrons from the foreseeable actions of third parties, failed to adhere to state and local statutes regarding hours and nature of operation and was vicariously liable for the actions and inactions of its employees.

$20,006,864 Verdict (Georgia 2022): The plaintiff, a minor, was attending a martial arts summer camp outside of Atlanta. While at the camp, he was sexually assaulted in the bathroom by another camper on 2 separate occasions. A negligent security lawsuit was filed against the camp operator for failing to maintain a safe premises, failing to provide adequate security and supervision, and failing to hire and/or retain competent staff to protect campers.

$4,550,000 Settlement (Florida 2022): A 31-year-old man was at an outdoor shopping plaza outside Miami. The shopping plaza had a popular liquor store in it that was known in the area to effectively operate as a late night bar, with people buying alcohol and partying in the parking lot at night. While in the plaza parking lot around midnight, the man was shot and killed by an unknown assailant. His estate sued the shopping plaza owner for negligent security and the case settled for $4.5 million.

$68,757 Verdict (Connecticut 2021): The plaintiff was at a café when two other patrons at the café engaged in a physical confrontation. The plaintiff was reportedly knocked down during the confrontation, resulting in injuries to her right arm and shoulder and right collarbone. She further allegedly suffered emotional distress. She sued the café owner alleging that it negligently failed to provide adequate security; failed to hire and/or retain security personnel; and failed to have an adequate number of security guards and/or personnel in visible areas.

Contact Us About Negligent Security Cases

If you have a negligent security lawsuit, contact our personal injury lawyers today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation or contact us online.

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