Georgia business owners may be liable for negligent security practices

GEORGIA BUSINESS OWNERS MAY BE LIABLE FOR NEGLIGENT SECURITY PRACTICES

The duty to provide adequate security against criminal acts is a legal obligation that has long been recognized in Georgia for property owners – particularly business owners. In fact, as far back as 1895, Georgia lawmakers have codified some version of this duty into the state statutes. In its current form, Georgia law states that when a property owner invites others onto his or her property – either expressly or implied – he or she will be liable if such persons are injured do to his or her “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises […] safe.” Violating this duty may give rise to negligent security claims in Georgia.

Specifically, business owners are expected to exercise ordinary care to protect invitees, such as customers, from unreasonable risks. For instance, if the business owner has any reason to anticipate a criminal act on the property, he or she has a duty to use ordinary care to interfere and guard against injury from these dangerous individuals.

In many cases, if a victim is able to show that prior similar criminal activity occurred on the premises, the owner will be deemed to have the knowledge that another dangerous activity could occur – thus establishing possible liability on the part of the owner if he or she does not take steps to protect customers against these dangers.

Negligent security and the landlord/tenant relationship

Importantly, however, the duty to provide safe premises is even more crucial in the landlord/tenant context – after all, people should be able to feel secure in their own apartments and homes. Similar to store owners, a landlord’s liability for not ensuring a tenant’s safety is predicated upon the landlord’s “superior knowledge” of conditions that would expose the tenant to an unreasonable risk of harm.

Additionally, a landlord also has a statutorily created obligation in Georgia to maintain premises in repair, meaning he or she can be liable for injuries by failing to use ordinary care to keep the premises safe. For example, a landlord may be responsible for injuries to a tenant during a criminal break-in when the landlord failed to install sufficient locks on the apartment’s doors.

It is also worth noting that negligent security claims in Georgia are subject to an apportionment of damages. Essentially, this means that landlords can attempt to apportion liability for damages to all non-parties that they believe may be at fault – such as the criminal assailant that perpetrated the crime.

If landlords are successful with their apportionment argument, victims of their wrongdoing will likely only receive a fraction of total damages. Consequently, it is always best to speak to an experienced attorney before pursuing negligent security claims. A knowledgeable attorney can assist in reviewing the circumstances of a victim’s injury and help ensure he or she is awarded the appropriate damages.