The general rule in Missouri is that a property owner is not legally responsible for injuries caused from a 3rd party criminal attacker just because the attack occurred on their property. However, in many situations such a duty can be establish through assumption of that duty by the property or business owner. Additionally, other factors and situations can create the duty, subjects for another article. This article focuses of assumption of a duty in Missouri negligent security cases. For information on special relationships and other law on negligent security cases see: Legal Elements and Issues Related to 3rd Pary Criminal Act Personal Injury cases in Missouri - Special Relationship or Circumstances Must Exist
Liability for 3rd Party Criminal Attack through Assumption of the Duty:
Under Missouri law a business or property owner can be legally liable, under a negligent security theory, for injuries resulting from a third party criminal attack if that business or property owner voluntarily assumed the duty to protect its invitees from criminal attacks and did not carry out that assumed duty with reasonable care. The assumption of the duty to provide security under Missouri law was established in 1990 by the Keenan v. Miriam Foundation case, which is still good law today.
Under the Keenan v Miriam Foundation case, a plaintiff does not have to establish prior violent crime as the Defendant assumed the duty, that assumption establishes the duty without prior violent crime, which is only required when the duty is established as a matter of law, not by assumption. Keenan adopted the Restatement 2nd of Torts approach, stating:
"One who undertakes, gratuitously or for consideration, to render services to another which he should recognize as necessary for the protection of a third person or his things, is subject to liability to the third person or his things, for physical harm resulting from his failure to exercise reasonable care to protect his undertaking, if
(a) his failure to exercise reasonable care increases the risk of such harm,
(b) he has undertaken to perform a duty owed by the other to the third person,
(c) the harm is suffered because of reliance of the other or the third person upon the undertaking."
Therefore, even without prior violent crime the property owner knew or should have known about, they can assume the duty to provide security. If they assume that duty they must carry out that duty in a reasonable way.
A current case our injury law firm is handling arises out a of a violent sexual assault in St Louis that occurred at an apartment complex in north county. For background facts of the case see injury law article: Premise Liability - St Louis Missouri - Defective and Unmaintained Security Doors - Rape of woman inside her own apartment. In this case the St Louis apartment complex owner bought the apartment buildings about ten years prior to the assault. The evidence is that when the the property was bought all of the security doors and locks were in good working order and that the owner's intention was to keep them in working order - ASSUMPTION OF THE DUTY! The problem occurred because the owner did not maintain those security doors and locks and allowed the majority of them to go into serious disrepair.
For a free consultation regarding injuries sustained as the result of a criminal attack and you suspect negligent security or that the property owner knew of high crime in the area, call the law offices of Sansone / Lauber today to speak with a skilled St Louis injury trial lawyer.
Call today - (314) 863-0500