When injury and accident lawyers talk about “premises liability,” we’re usually referring to a generic area of law which encompasses the liability of business entities for negligence. Such business entities often include stores, malls, grocery stores, etc., basically any business you can think of. In addition, the term also encompasses liability of homeowners for negligence which leads to an accident or injury. In a nutshell, “premises liability” really refers to liability of any person or business for an accident or injury.
Most people think of fall down accidents as the most common type of premises liability (or business liability) case. However, fall accidents actually account for a small percentage of these kinds of cases. There are literally dozens of different types of premises or business liability lawsuits. They range from business liability in a victim injury case (AKA “negligent security”) to homeowner liability for an assault or shooting.
There was a recent mall shooting in Pennsylvania which merits a discussion of liability under PA injury laws.
Mall Shooting Outside Pittsburgh Leads to Tighter Mall Security Procedures
Over the weekend, three people were shot at a mall in Monroeville, which is located just outside of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania. According to several news reports, a teen has been arrested for shooting 3 mall goers inside a large department store. At least one news website reports that there had been a slew of violent activity in the months prior to the shooting. Apparently, at least 4 police officers had been assigned to patrol the mall on Fridays and Saturdays. Another news report indicates that the mall will now institute a youth policy, requiring individuals under the age of 18 to be accompanied by parent or guardian who is at least 21 years old.
Is the Mall Liable for the Shooting?
It’s an interesting question, and there really isn’t enough solid evidence to say for sure whether a Pennsylvania court would find the mall liable for failing to prevent the shooting. Before we review the facts, as reported in multiple news reports and assuming they are true, we should take a look at how negligence is defined in PA and NJ.
Defining Negligence in Accident & Injury Cases
In both PA and NJ, a person or business can be negligent by taking some affirmative action or failing to take action. The key is whether a reasonably prudent person or business would have acted differently under the circumstances. If so, then there’s a strong possibility that the person or business would be held liable in a lawsuit. Now, let’s apply these principles to the recent mall shooting in PA.
Let’s assume the following facts are true. First, there had been prior reports of violence at the mall, and second, those prior reports of violence necessitated hiring four police officers to patrol the mall. In order to determine liability here, there are three main factual issues which need to be developed:
- the nature and extent of the prior reports of violence,
- whether hiring four police officers was a sufficient response,
- what the mall’s policies and procedures were with respect to violence (and whether those procedures were followed).
To analyze these issues, you must first look at any and all reports of violence AFTER the police officers were hired to patrol the mall. If the number of reports decreased slightly or not at all, then additional security measures should have been implemented (i.e., video surveillance, additional officers, patrol of parking lots, etc.). If the number of reports decreased substantially, then the mall owners/operators could argue that hiring 4 officers was a sufficient response and that there was no way they could have foreseen the recent shooting.
In addition, you must analyze any and all mall policies and procedures related to violence, security, etc., and examine whether those policies were followed. If not, then the mall may face liability for failing to enforce its own policies.
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www.usatoday.com, Teen arrested in Pa. mall shooting; 3 shot
www.philly.com, Mall to crack down on unsupervised youth following shooting