Are You Safe When You Go Out?
Many Floridians are still reeling from the 2016 Pulse Nightclub mass shooting. A man killed forty-nine people, and wounded fifty-three more, in what authorities described as a terrorist act which specifically targeted LGBTQ individuals. Indeed, the shooter had sworn allegiance to ISIS and nearly all Pulse patrons were LGBTQ. But unfortunately, there is more to the story.
Around 2 a.m., the shooter, who was clearly armed to the teeth, walked right past a Pulse Nightclub security guard. Then, instead of taking action, the guard immediately dove under cover. Furthermore, there are indications that the shooter drove past the nightclub several times immediately before the incident, a pattern that should have aroused a security team’s suspicions.
In situations like this, law enforcement and the criminal justice system deal with offenders. But these efforts do not help the victims of these shootings. That’s where a Tampa inadequate security attorney steps in. These individuals need and deserve financial compensation for everything they have been through. If property owners were even partially responsible, these owners must live up to their legal obligations.
These responsibilities kick in if the owner had a legal duty to protect the victim, a property hazard caused injury, and the owner knew about the inadequate security or other issue. The good news is that, in many cases, these elements are relatively easy to establish in court. The bad news is that these claims often have foreseeability issues. More on that below.
As for legal duty, Florida law divides victims into three categories, primarily based on their relationship with the owner:
- Invitee (permission to be on the land and benefit to the owner),
- Licensee (permission but no benefit), and
- Trespasser (no permission and no benefit).
Nightclub patrons are invitees, even if they do not spend any money at the club. Vendors and salespeople are invitees as well, since their visits have a commercial purpose. In these situations, the owner typically has a duty of reasonable care. This responsibility is roughly based on the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which American schoolchildren once had to memorize.
The duty of care is lower in licensee cases, since the relationship is more distant. Usually, a licensee is someone like a motorist who cuts across a parking lot on the way to work. The responsibility level is even lower in trespasser cases.
Once a Hillsborough County judge determines if a legal duty applied, a jury must determine if a property hazard, such as negligent security, caused injury, and the owner knew about that hazard.
In ye olden days, property owners were not legally responsible for criminal acts, like shootings. Today, however, the law protects victims in these situations. Lawyers often play “what if” in these instances. For example, if the security had been tighter at Pulse Nightclub, the tragedy might have happened anyway. Then again, it might not have happened.
Knowledge of the hazard can be direct or indirect. Direct evidence of actual knowledge could include a security review which highlights some flaws. Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) includes prior security incidents which should have prompted the owner to beef up security.
Roughly these same principles also apply to foreseeability, a legal concept which basically means “likely.”
As mentioned, property owners could be responsible for a third party’s criminal act, if that act was foreseeable. Evidence of foreseeability includes the nature of the business (i.e. is it a nightclub or a tea room), the neighborhood’s status as a “high crime” area, and prior similar incidents in the area.
Usually, the victim/plaintiff must prove foreseeability by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. That’s one of the lowest standards of proof in Florida law.
Connect with a Diligent Hillsborough County Lawyer
Injury victims are usually entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact Mark H. Wright, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.