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Foreseeability in Premises Security Liability Cases

The underlying concept in most premises security liability cases is foreseeability. But that concept is not always fully understood. As relates to adequacy and sufficiency of security – the standard by which a business’s security will be measured – foreseeability as defined by most courts in the U.S. (with only a few minor exceptions, most notably Michigan) is a broad concept which is usually determined by a formal assessment of 4 distinct criteria:

The inherent nature of the premises: Every premises has a distinct nature, each with its innate problems and risks.

The history of security incidents at the premises: A premises with a history of crime and security problems and incidents can probably expect more crime and incidents in the future. And Courts have not necessarily held that criminal or security incidents of a specific nature are a determining factor - criminal and security incidents in general are considered, because security measures are usually not implemented to prevent or deter only one type of incident.

The history of security incidents in the immediate geographic surroundings of the premises in question: Crime usually does not limit itself to specific sites; so security problems that occur in a neighborhood will frequently find their way to and impact any given premises in that neighborhood.

Industry security standards for the premises: Any organization whose industry has established some formalized standards or practices for security has an obligation to at least consider those security measures, since such standards and practices are probably relevant.

While doing a preliminary assessment of the merits of potential premises security liability cases, attorneys should definitely take into account the concept of foreseeability.

By Special Service
Security Consultant and Expert Witness
Jon C. Paul, CPP (Board Certified in Security Management) is a career security practitioner with more than 30 years of security management service and responsibility as a Director of Security for organizations in the retail and healthcare industries, independent Security Consultant with corporate, industrial and governmental experience, and Court-recognized Expert Witness for both plaintiff and defense counsel in matters dealing with issues related to premises liability and adequacy of security programs and operations.

He has had articles published on security topics including disaster preparedness, trends in premises security liability, and assessing security needs.

He has held leadership roles in a variety of professional organizations in both the private and public sectors. He has served on the international Board of Directors of ASIS International, and served two terms on the prestigious Professional Certification Board of ASIS, including three years as its President.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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