Are The Owners Of A Premises Liable For Another's Actions?
In the wake of senseless workplace violence in Coral Gables, FL, just outside of Miami, the question is certainly worth discussing. Premises owners may be liable in Georgia for crimes, reckless acts, as well as negligence committed by others on their property.
The tragic scene unfolded in a few seconds last weekend in Coral Gables. A trainer who was fired from the fitness corporation, "Equinox," returned to the gym from which he was let go for what has been described as "workplace violence." The Miami Herald reported that there was a shouting match between the man and two others. He came back with a loaded firearm. Once inside, the man sought out and confronted two of the three people who collaborated in the decision to let him go. The disgruntled ex-employee shot and killed two of them, and the third ran to safety. The man then turned the weapon on himself. Equinox employees and clients, alike, were shattered after learning about the devastating news.
No amount of money could ever replace the two lives lost so tragically and violently. The families who lost loved ones at Equinox should not have to endure the pain, suffering, and sense of loss they undoubtedly feel. However, there may come a time when the families wish to seek justice and pursue a wrongful death claim.
If this event occurred in Georgia, the courts would try to determine whether the premises owner knew that this event could happen and failed to protect the people on his property from the danger. In Georgia, the premises owner owes invitees, which is the legal term for customers or clients, a duty to keep the premises and approaches to the premises safe. However, if a criminal action is the cause of a person's injuries, then the owner is not liable unless the criminal act was reasonably foreseeable.
What is reasonably foreseeable usually turns on the facts of each case. But, a criminal action might be foreseeable, and the owner may not be liable unless the owner had "superior knowledge" to that of the injured invitee. If a premises owner has knowledge of a potential danger that a patron does not, then the owner must take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to the people on the premises. Failing to warn or take other precautionary measures creates an unreasonable risk of harm, the results of which the owner could be liable.
The premises owner may come to have superior knowledge of the possibility of a criminal action to that of his or her patrons in many ways. For example, if a convenience store is located is an area of town that is has a history of violent crime, the property owner may have a duty to customers to take reasonable steps to protect their safety.
Alternatively, simply over serving alcohol to a customer will not necessarily subject the owner to liability for the criminal action of said patron against another. Adults know and understand that some people become violent after consuming alcohol. Therefore, in such situations the owner and invitee generally stand on equal footing and no person has superior knowledge to the other. On the other hand, if the belligerent patron had been over-served before in the restaurant or bar and the owner knew that the patron grew violent after drinking, then the situation might be different.
It is important to remember that every factual scenario is different from the other. If you or a family member have been injured because of a any type of incident that you believe involved negligence, consult with one of our attorneys at Montlick & Associates to learn about your legal rights and options.
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The Miami Herald
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