January 28, 2013 by marichulambino
Some legal obligations of mall owners to patrons (mall-goers) for crimes occurring inside the mall
Despite malling being a national past-time, existing law and jurisprudence specifically on mall proprietors provide little comfort: as long as mall owners observe what is called “minimal precaution based on foreseeable harm”, patrons who are injured or who suffer damages arising from crimes committed inside the mall would have to show failure on the part of the mall-owner to prevent “foreseeable harm” based on reasonably predictable criminal activity inside the mall.
In the Philippines, we would have to rely on the general provisions of the Civil Code (Art. 2176). Despite increasing criminality inside shopping malls, there are no steps taken to require legal obligations on the part of mall owners for the safety of patrons from crimes (apart from, as I said, 2176, general; on the other hand, 2191 deals with obligations of proprietors for explosions from machinery, excessive smoke, emanations from sewers).
Mall owners would be a big lobby against any such steps, i imagine.
One principle in crime-prevention is visibility and effective presence of competent security personnel per hundred thousand square feet for example; in the case excerpted below however, the presence of one security guard for 765,000 square feet of building premises was deemed minimal precaution that met the minimum standard. Not good if you ask me, but I’m always rushing when i’m in a crowded mall anyway (aversion to large, mindless crowds) ; if you’re a mall rat and can’t help it, you could study the pattern of organized crime inside malls — do they occur on weekends? On the ground floor? – then try not to be there…I’m being facetious. Here’s the case:
Inger v PCK Dev. Co., LLC, 2012 NY Slip Op 05376 [97 AD3d 895], July 5, 2012
Appellate Division, Third Department, Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431. As corrected August 22, 2012.
“Tragically, just after midnight on June 4, 2006, decedent was stabbed to death by one of her coworkers while finishing her shift as night manager at a Ground Round Restaurant located in leased space in defendant’s mall. Plaintiff—decedent’s daughter…—commenced this action against defendant alleging that its negligence in failing to safely maintain the mall premises and assure the absence of dangerous conditions thereon was the proximate cause of decedent’s injuries. xxx
“ Initially, we agree with defendant that it had no duty to police or supervise activity within the restaurant itself. “It is well settled that an out-of-possession landlord who relinquishes control of the premises and is not contractually obligated to repair unsafe conditions is not liable xxx Hence, unless a landlord retains control over leased premises, it owes no duty to third-party occupants for injuries they sustain as victims of criminal activity occurring on the premises xxxHere, it is undisputed that defendant did not have any control over the interior of the restaurant. Indeed, defendant’s security personnel did not have keys to access the restaurant after hours and plaintiff does not affirmatively argue that defendant had a duty to inspect or patrol the restaurant interior. Accordingly, defendant owed no duty to protect decedent from third parties, such as the coworker who attacked decedent, once present within the restaurant behind locked doors after hours xxx
“Defendant did retain a duty under its lease with the restaurant to maintain the mall and its exterior for the safety of defendant’s patrons, employees and tenants, and defendant’s security personnel were charged with securing all areas surrounding tenant spaces, including exterior walkways and parking lots. Plaintiff argues that defendant breached this duty by not providing cameras at the restaurant’s entrances. xxx Defendant’s duty in this regard, however, was only to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable harm, which requires evidence that the attack on decedent was reasonably predictable based on prior occurrences of the same or similar criminal activity at the mall xxx
“Here, defendant met its threshold burden of establishing that it took at least ” ‘minimal precautions to protect tenants from foreseeable harm,’ including a third party’s foreseeable criminal conduct” xxx A mall security officer patrolled the premises after hours and saw nothing to alarm her on the night of decedent’s attack. The affidavit of defendant’s then-security director established that decedent’s tragic death was not predictable or expected given that no similar assault had occurred in any of the tenant spaces leased at the mall, and that, apart from one shooting a year earlier in 2005, the criminal activity on the mall premises consisted of much less serious offenses, such as shoplifting, disorderly conduct and fist fights. Plaintiff relies heavily on the 2005 shooting, where an assailant carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle entered the mall through another leased tenant space in broad daylight on a Saturday afternoon and indiscriminately opened fire on people within the store and then in the common area of the mall. We find it unreasonable to suggest that this event was sufficient to put defendant on notice of a risk of an attack such as the one perpetrated against decedent. We hold, instead, that defendant did not owe a duty to decedent, as a matter of law, to protect her from her assailant under the circumstances presented by this case. xxx”