Negligent Security Actions and the Recent Legislative Changes to Florida Law

Someone is robbed at gunpoint in a shopping center in a bad neighborhood after withdrawing cash at night from an ATM underneath several burnt-out lights in the shopping center’s parking lot. The police later track down the assailant, who is criminally charged with both armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. The shopping center is in a high crime area, but the shopping center owner did not have any security staff on duty at the time of the incident despite a rash of armed robberies in the vicinity, including multiple such instances at the same shopping center several times in the recent past. There were also lights out throughout the shopping center’s parking lot, including directly above this ATM, which was open 24-7.

Negligent Security Lawsuits

A negligent security lawsuit is a type of premises liability claim against the owner or operator of a particular business or property where the victim of a crime is robbed or assaulted. Many times such incidents occur because the property owner, like the shopping center owner in this example, did not take appropriate measures to contract with a reputable and qualified security company to patrol the premises, to replace the exterior light bulbs, or situated an ATM that was open 24-7 in an area where an incident like this was more likely to occur. Normally, an incident like this would lead the business or property owner to face liability for the entirety of the damages suffered by the crime victim, given that the crime likely would not have occurred if not for the lack of proper security precautions taken by the business or property owner of wherever the crime may have taken place.

However, recent legislative changes included as a part of Florida’s “tort reform” legislation signed into law by Governor DeSantis in late March have turned negligent security cases in Florida on their head. The entire method of the apportionment of damages, as well as, the parties to a negligent security lawsuit have completely changed. Before these changes, the assailant in this incident would not have appeared on the jury verdict form because the jury would only be deciding whether the property owner was negligent in creating an environment where a crime like this could occur. The assailant would not be assessed a percentage of fault given that he or she was obviously at fault given that he chose to rob the victim, but now juries are permitted to apportion fault to the assailant, which will likely result in a windfall to the shopping center owner in this case.

The Effect of These Changes for Victims of Crimes in Florida

While insurers, business and commercial landlords and property managers claim that the new framework for the apportionment of fault and determination of damages in negligent security cases is more fair to them, it is a huge step back for the victims in such cases. Commercial property owners have long claimed that the system placed unfair burdens on them because the assailant in an instance like that described above would not appear on the jury verdict form and the jury would be able to award the entirety of the victim’s damages against the property owner. However, the recent legislation now permits the assailant to be included on the jury verdict form for the jury to include that individual in its decision as to the apportionment of fault in a negligent security case. This ignores that, as in the example above, someone who may be the victim of an attack like this will be left with a much lower chance of being made whole for his or her damages as a result of the incident. An assailant likely will not have two nickels to rub together or they would not be committing a robbery in the first place, so allowing the intentional tortfeasor to be put on the jury verdict only hurts the victim by limiting the fault that may be placed on the shopping center owner.

Therefore, despite the fact that it chose to operate an ATM that was open at all hours of day and night in a location where that likely was not a wise choice, that it did not even bother to employ a security company to monitor the shopping center parking lots or to regularly change the lightbulbs in that same parking lot, the shopping center will get off more easily in this scenario as a result of these recent legislative changes applicable to negligent security cases.

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 200 years of combined legal experience, including in representing the victims of crimes in seeking to recover their damage in negligent security lawsuits. Although the Florida Legislature did Floridians a disservice in making these recent changes to the legal landscape in negligent security cases, our experienced attorneys have handled enough of these cases to still obtain maximum damages for our clients who have been the victim of a crime regardless of what hurdles the Legislature may choose to impose. Thus, if you were the victim of a crime in the Sunshine State, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today at contact@schwedlaw.com or (877) 694-6079 today.