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Pennsylvania Mall Employees Injured Due to Criminal Activity
A Discussion of the Young Case (PA Superior Court, Sept. 2014)

It is well-established in Pennsylvania that a business can be held liable to a shopper/customer for criminal activity which occurs on the premises, including a parking lot or garage. See Moran v. Valley Forge Drive–In Theatre, Inc., (Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1968) (movie theater can be held liable to a customer for criminal conduct which occurs in the bathroom); Murphy v. Penn Fruit Co., (Pennsylvania Superior Court, 1980) (grocery store can be liable for stabbing of a customer in the parking lot).

But, what happens if an employee of a business in the mall is injured due to criminal activity? For instance, someone who works at a store in a mall is walking back to their car after their shift and is assaulted, robbed or raped in the parking lot/garage. Can the mall or parking lot security company be held liable for the crime? The answer is yes.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed this issue last month in Young v. Prizm Asset Management Company. Prior to this case, there was only one federal court case which found that an employee of a store in a shopping center was entitled to the same standard which applies to a customer. However, that case is not binding on state courts. See Morgan v. Bucks Assocs., a 1977 Eastern District of Pennsylvania court case. In Morgan, the plaintiff was an employee of a store in the shopping center and was assaulted in the parking lot. The court found that she was, for all intents and purposes, a business invitee. Click here to read about a store’s duty to prevent/warn of foreseeable criminal activity.

A Discussion of the Young Case

In the Young case, an employee of a children’s clothing store in a mall in Scranton, PA was injured during a robbery which took place as the employee was walking to an employee-designated parking area. See Young v. Prizm Asset Management Company et al., Pennsylvania Superior Court, September 2014.

The law at issue in the case was the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 344 which provides:

A possessor of land who holds it open to the public for entry for his business purposes is subject to liability to members of the public while they are upon the land for such a purpose, for physical harm caused by the accidental, negligent, or intentionally harmful acts of third persons or animals, and by the failure of the possessor to exercise reasonable care to

(a) discover that such acts are being done or are likely to be done, or

(b) give a warning adequate to enable the visitors to avoid the harm, or otherwise to protect them against it. (emphasis added)

The issue was whether the phrase “members of the public” included an employee of a store, rather than a patron or customer. The Young court held that since shopping malls profit from stores located in the mall, employees of stores are deemed “members of the public” for purposes of the law.

Therefore, the Young case clearly establishes the legal right of an employee of a store in a mall to recover for injuries resulting from criminal activity.

Looking for more info? Access our PA & NJ negligent security law library.

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