When people think of injuries that someone suffers while attending a sporting event, concert, or other leisure activity, they probably think of it occurring at the hands of a fellow attendee. But what about injuries caused by the negligence of security personnel working these events? Under Florida law, private security guards must have a proper license issued by the state of Florida. But there are no such legal requirements for in house security guards like nightclub bouncers. Here is a brief look at liability for damages caused by the negligence of security personnel in Florida.
Security is present in most locations that we frequent on a daily basis. This long list of locations includes stadiums, night clubs, hospitals, fitness clubs, amusement parks, shopping malls, recreation areas, airports, college campuses, and apartment complexes. The negligence of security personnel in such locations may result in injuries, or even death, from wrongdoing that includes rape, assault and battery, robbery, and even false imprisonment.
To successfully recover damages for a claim based upon the negligence of security personnel, you must prove or establish the requisite elements usually associated with negligence actions. First, you must show that you were lawfully present on the property. This is to insure that you were not a trespasser or some other category of person that was not owed any duty of protection by security personnel.
Which leads to the next requirement — that the property owner had a duty to offer or provide reasonable security to the plaintiff, and that such a duty was breached. Many things may demonstrate evidence of a breach including wrongs that result from insufficient, poorly trained or ill-prepared security personnel. Also on location structural issues like insufficient lighting in parking garages, foyers, and walkways are possible indications of failures to meet a duty. Things in need of repair that are unable to serve their normal function or purpose like broken gates or fencing and broken door locks are also forms of potential evidence. Inadequate camera, surveillance and recording devices may serve as evidence of a defendant’s breach as well.
Relevant to any case based upon the negligence of security personnel are many factors like the actual security arrangements outlined and measures, if any, that were taken to implement such plans or arrangements. Were responsibilities relating to security clearly outlined in writing? What oversight existed to insure that proper security procedures were followed? Assessment of the overall capability and experience of the security company as well as the staff actually present must be determined. Relating to safety equipment, an important question is what was necessary for such an event and what, if any, was actually used? You must then prove that you were harmed because of an outsider’s actions that were reasonably foreseeable to the property owner and that but for the property owner’s negligence and breach of duty of care, you would not have been harmed. Finally, you must prove the existence of actual damages.
The issue of reasonable foreseeability is extremely important and crucial in negligent security cases. In fact, this part of the law seems to be changing and evolving in many states, including Florida. Courts in Florida have historically analyzed the factor of foreseeability based on whether there were previous comparable crimes or unlawful acts in the same area that the property owner knew about or ought to have known about. However, in Vazquez v. Lago Grande Homeowners Association, 900 So.2d 587 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2004), The court held that a negligent breach of voluntarily undertaken security obligations is a basis for liability wholly independent of the traditional foreseeability analysis. This holding opens up possibilities of recovery even in cases where there is little or no evidence of prior similar crimes or of the defendants’ knowledge of the assailant.
In Burns International Security Services, Inc. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., 899 So.2d 361 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005), the court clearly stated, that actions directly against security providers rested on an entirely different basis from actions against premises owners and operators. Following Vazquez, the Burns court reasoned that the duty arose not from the foreseeability of crimes on the premises but from the provider’s express contractual undertaking to protect and secure the property. Since the “very purpose of what Burns agreed to do was to exercise reasonable care to prevent any criminal incident from occurring … it cannot matter that the incident in question was the first one.” Id. at 365.
In apparent contrast to Vasquez and Burns is Sherwood v. Quietwater Entertainment, 30 Fla. L. Weekly D2324 (Fla. 1st DCA No. 1D04-0763, September 28, 2005). The Sherwood court engaged in a foreseeability analysis that may or may not be consistent with Vazquez and Burns. The Sherwood court, seemed to apply a totality of the circumstances foreseeability analysis and test rather than considering the security firm’s contractual undertaking as an independent basis of liability. The murkiness in the law caused by Vasquez, Burns and Sherwood require the assistance, experience and skill of a personal injury attorney to sort through and analyze all of the potential theories of liability, as well as determine all of the potential defendants to sue.
If you or a family member has been injured in an incident caused by the negligence of security personnel, call Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Bryan Caulfield. Bryan Caulfield has decades of experience representing his clients involved in car accidents and can help you and your family recover by working to get you the compensation you need for your injuries. Contact Bryan Caulfield today.