Articles Tagged with negligent security

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field-trip-205687-mIn April of 1993 Jason Robinson was a student at Darmouth High School.  In the early morning hours of the school day, three assailants were involved in a violent altercation at the school with two other of Jason’s classmates and possibly Jason himself.  After the altercation the assailants fled the school and Jason was detained by school officials.  A classmate of the individuals informed school officials that the three individuals who were the assailants planned to return to the school and retaliate against Jason.  The assailants did in fact return some hours later, this time, heavily armed.  The assailants were unimpeded by school officials and made their way to an upstairs classroom where they stabbed Jason to death.

The individual who stabbed Jason was subsequently convicted of murder in the second degree by the Massachusetts court system.  Jason’s mother, Elaine Brum, filed an action in Superior Court against the town of Darmouth and various town and school officials alleging a failure to maintain adequate security measures at the school which amounted to negligence.  The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the mother’s claim based on Massachusetts General Law Chapter 258 § 10(J), which does not allow a lawsuit to be filed against the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions where the claim is:

“based on an act or failure to act to prevent or diminish the harmful consequences of a condition or situation, including the violent or tortious conduct of a third person, which is not originally caused by the public employer or any other person acting on behalf of the public employer.”

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movie-house-771223-mAlthough property owners are not responsible for preventing every instance of violence, they must take reasonable steps to secure the premises in appropriate circumstances.  A negligent (or inadequate) security claim arises when a person is injured due to the poor or unreasonable safety precautions established by the premises owner.  In a case recently decided by the Appellate Court of Massachusetts, the Court held that a woman who alleged she was raped in the bathroom of Regal Cinemas in Bellingham could not have a new trial after judgment was entered for the Defendant cinema.  The Plaintiff claimed that Regal Cinemas should be held liable under the theory of negligent supervision, specifically, that the Defendant organization had policies or procedures in place that exacerbated or made it possible for such an egregious act to occur on its property.

The failure of a homeowner, business owner, or premises owner to prevent a crime does not establish the owner’s liability in a negligent security case.  Instead, the court will determine whether the underlying crime was foreseeable to the owner.  When a crime is reasonably foreseeable to occur on the premises of another there may be a duty to protect, and thus, negligence may attach.  The court has held that when it comes to security of premises, a landowner is not an insurer of land.  However, the court has articulated that liability may be warranted in certain circumstances which hinge on the foreseeability of the underlying acts: Continue reading →

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