Third Party Liability for the Criminal Acts of Others


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As a personal injury attorney in San Francisco, I have had the unfortunate opportunity of representing a party who was injured as a result of a crime.  This article will address when a third party is liable for a criminal act of another.  This generally occurs when a party is injured due to inadequate security, a poor lighting condition or where the third party fails to take proper precautions to protect an individual.

Generally No Duty Owed to Protect Against Third Parties

Generally, a party does not have a duty to protect an individual from the acts of a third party.  However, there may be a duty to protect an individual when there is a special relationship between the parties.

This is best understood in the context of an inn-keeper and a guest.  As a guest of a hotel, the hotel has a special relationship with you.  The hotel must provide a safe premises for its guests.  A hotel may be found negligent if they knew or should have known about the potential for harm.  Take this in the context of a guest in a hotel suffering a violent assault by another guest.  The hotel may be responsible if the hotel could have evicted the attacking guest if they knew or should have known that the guest may become violent.

Foreseeable Attack

The hotel is responsible when it is foreseeable that an attack may have occurred.  Foreseeability may be determined in several ways.  Criminal acts do not always fall into the category of foreseeable risks.  The Court will take a look into the totality of the circumstances in order to make a determination of whether an attack was foreseeable or not.  The court will look as to whether the dangerous condition existed for a long enough period that the hotel should have known.  In the scenario presented above, the court would look to see how drunk the attacking guest was, whether or not the hotel did anything to control him, and whether the hotel provided further alcohol to the attacking guest.

Attempts to Prevent Crimes

The court will also look to whether or not the hotel had taken any reasonable steps to prevent crimes from occurring on the premises.  It must be proven that the hotel failed to take any steps to prevent the harm caused by a foreseeable risk.  It is definitely foreseeable that a drunken guest could harm another guest.  The court will consider what did the hotel do to prevent the harm from occurring.  If the hotel did nothing, the hotel may be liable for the act of the attacking guest.

Seeking Legal Assistance

If you were harmed by another in a criminal act, you may want to consider speaking to a personal injury attorney in your jurisdiction.  There are many personal injury attorneys in San Francisco, California who may be able to assist you.

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LA-NOLO3:DRU.1.6.3.20141021.28794