Can I Sue a Landowner for a Criminal Act on Its Property in California?

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Many thousands of people in California are physically injured by criminal acts every year, through assaults (including sexual assaults), batteries, robberies, and other acts. There are of course criminal penalties for these acts, but putting a person behind bars does not pay for the victim’s medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering resulting from the injuries. A victim has the right to file a civil suit against the attacker himself, but this often falls short in addressing the victim’s needs where the attacker has limited funds to pay potential damages. Which brings up the question of whether a victim can bring a lawsuit against the owner of the property on which the criminal act occurred. In some cases, this will be possible, and victims can in fact win recovery for their injuries from landowners based on criminal acts in California.

Recovery Where Criminal Acts Were Foreseeable

A primary legal theory for winning recovery against landowners for injuries from criminal acts is bringing a claim based on negligent security. In bringing such a claim, the plaintiff is arguing that the landowner failed to provide enough security to avoid criminal acts from occurring by third parties on its property. This claim was at the heart of a famous lawsuit brought against the Los Angeles Dodgers following the 2011 beating of a fan in the parking lot outside Dodgers Stadium on opening day. In that case, the jury found that the Dodgers organization failed to provide proper security in the parking lot and were thus liable for $13.9 million of the damages suffered by the fan.

In bringing and winning such cases, the court will focus on whether the criminal acts that occurred on a landowner’s property were foreseeable by the landowner and whether the landowner took enough significant protections to avoid such foreseeable criminal acts. Common types of properties for which criminal acts would be foreseeable and thus the landowners would have a duty to provide security would include:

  • Sports stadiums
  • Concert halls and amphitheatres
  • Hotels and motels
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Schools and universities
  • Transportation providers

When You’ve Been the Victim of a Criminal Attack on Another’s Property

If you have been the victim of a criminal attack on another’s property, it is very common for an employee of the landowner to attempt to get you to make a statement and/or sign a release limiting the landowner’s liability. You are strongly discouraged from doing either without obtaining the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney first who can advise you on your rights. Signing a waiver generally serves to only protect the other party while essentially giving away your rights to obtain financial recovery for your injuries.

After a criminal act occurs, you should certainly speak with police, but you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you may have a case for negligent security against the landowner or any other parties. Successful negligent security cases are often built off obtaining eyewitness testimony and statements from those who were present as well as physical evidence from the scene of the crime. The longer one waits to begin the process of investigating and collecting evidence, the harder it can be to collect the necessary evidence to win victory, thus you should not hesitate in speaking with an attorney after a criminal act causing injury.

Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys in the Inland Empire

At McCune Wright Arevalo, our personal injury team – led by by partner Cory Weck, a Marine Corps officer with over 20 years of service to his country and 15 years of experience litigating personal injury cases – has repeatedly won verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients across the Inland Empire in the millions of dollars. Our attorneys understand that the fear, anxiety, and pain that you and your family are going through following a personal injury from a criminal act, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to help our clients get the help they need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

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