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Two Recent Georgia Supreme Court Cases on Negligent Security

By Grant Law Office on August 10, 2023

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Negligent security can be a premises liability issue. A lawsuit may be brought against a property or business owner when a patron sustains a foreseeable injury because of inadequate security measures. A negligent security claim can arise when a visitor suffers assault, robbery, battery, sexual assault, or wrongful death.

Property owners have a duty to act in a way that protects visitors from threats to their safety while on the property. If there has been a history of criminal activity on or near the property, it is reasonable to assume that someone could be harmed by a criminal act. When property or business owners fail to provide adequate security to prevent that harm, they may be held liable in a negligent security claim.

What Led to the Georgia Supreme Court Ruling?

The state Supreme Court examined the liability of property owners and occupiers in personal injury claims involving third-party criminal activity in two recent consolidated cases:

Georgia CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. Carmichael

During an armed robbery in a CVS store parking lot, James Carmichael was shot and wounded. He brought a negligent security claim against CVS, alleging that it failed to take adequate security measures to safeguard the property. Plaintiff asserted that the CVS store was located in a high-crime area and called store employees as witnesses to testify regarding their concern about the safety of the CVS parking lot, partially due to inadequate lighting. A CVS supervisor testified that the store had previously employed security guards but had dismissed them over the objections of employees.

The jury assigned 95% fault to CVS and 5% fault to Carmichael. The plaintiff was awarded $42,750,000 in damages (95% of the total verdict). The trial court denied CVS’s motions for a new trial and judgment, which led to the Supreme Court appeal.

Welch v. Pappas Restaurants, Inc.

A man was shot and killed during an armed robbery in the parking lot of Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Marietta. The assailants were subsequently arrested and convicted. Security footage showed the perpetrators entering the parking lot and lingering near their vehicle before the attack. A security guard patrolled the parking lot shortly before the shooting in a marked vehicle with flashing lights. The parking lot was well-lit with surveillance cameras, and Pappas had hired Tactical to provide unarmed security guards, who patrolled the area the night of the shooting.

The widow of the man who was shot and killed filed a negligent security claim against Pappas and Tactical. The trial court ruling denying the defendant’s motion for summary judgment was reversed by the Court of Appeals, who concluded that the shooting was not reasonably foreseeable and absolved the defendants of liability.

What Happened in the Georgia Supreme Court?

Property owners’ duty of care and liability is directly related to the reasonable foreseeability of crime. The court agreed that without it, a proprietor has no duty to exercise ordinary care to prevent criminal acts. The duty to protect visitors or patrons hinges on foreseeability. The Supreme Court’s opinion highlighted that the reasonableness of security measures is determined by balancing their cost and feasibility against the likelihood and severity of foreseeable harm.

The court affirmed the Carmichael judgment, finding that prior crimes need not be identical to establish foreseeability. In Welch, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals ruling that police reports of property crimes in the surrounding area were insufficient to raise a question of fact regarding reasonable foreseeability and ruled that security companies can be held liable. Rather than the case being dismissed, a jury will decide the question.

Legal Advocates for Victims of Negligent Security

If you have been injured by criminal actions due to negligent security, Grant Law Office is here to provide the trusted legal support you need. Our practice is dedicated to providing highly responsive, compassionate, and effective legal counsel.

With decades of experience, our Atlanta negligent security lawyers are fully prepared to investigate your accident, determine liability, and pursue the compensation you deserve.

Reach out to us at (404) 995-3955 to schedule your free consultation.

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Posted in: Premises Liability

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