Shopping malls across the country have been the subject of media attention over the last several months, due to some high profile assaults and shootings. Late last year, a NJ man was killed as a result of a carjacking over the holidays. The perpetrators shot him in the head and stole his car. He died in front of his wife.
Many people who are injured in these kinds of accidents may wonder if they have any legal recourse other than pursuing a criminal case.
Related: Negligent Security Claims Against Pennsylvania Hotels, Malls and Stores
What is the Difference Between a Criminal and Civil Mall Shooting Case?
The criminal justice system is designed to punish individuals who commit a crime. In 99% of criminal cases, the only individuals prosecuted are the actual perpetrators. In a mall assault/shooting case, that means the individual who actually committed the crime or otherwise was a direct party (i.e, the getaway driver). This is a drawback of the criminal justice system, those who commit acts which cause or contribute to the crime will not be prosecuted via the criminal justice system (i.e., the shopping mall parking lot security company which failed to do anything about a rash of robberies).
The scope of the civil justice system is much broader than the criminal one. In the civil justice system, any person, company or business which had a duty to act and failed to do so can be held liable, in addition to the criminal perpetrator. In many mall assault/shooting cases, multiple parties are often liable for failing to take appropriate action, despite knowing the risk of criminal activity and the dangers posed to mall customers.
Who is the Correct Party?
In mall assault/shooting cases, multiple parties may be held liable, including:
- the company which owns/operates the mall,
- a security management company, and/or
- a property management company.
The key in identifying the correct parties is to obtain and analyze all relevant contractual agreements between these parties to uncover the nature and extent of their contractual duties. Larger malls usually contract out security and property management to separate entities. Through these security/property management contracts, the parties agree on responsibility for certain duties, such as security and safety or dealing with criminal activity. Because the relationship between the parties in a mall assault/shooting case can be complex, it is vital to have the case reviewed early on, to correctly identify the responsible parties.
The main theory of liability in a mall assault/shooting case is having knowledge of actual criminal activity, yet failing to do anything about it, such as beefing up security, providing better lighting, posting warning signs, etc. For instance, a mall may be liable in a situation in which it has knowledge of a string of recent robberies, yet fails to do a single thing about it.
What Can You Recover?
Mall assault/shooting cases include physical assaults, sexual assaults and shootings. Innocent mall goers may suffer major injuries, or worse, may be killed as a result of criminal activity. Under usual tort or negligence principles, which vary from state to state, an injured individual may recover the following types of damages:
- medical bills,
- lost wages, and
- pain and suffering.
More: Assaults at Hotels, Malls and Stores in Pennsylvania – Can You Recover for Your Injuries?
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