08202017Headline:

Phoenix, Arizona

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Liability for Failure to Prevent Risks of Criminal Activity

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I read today that a female Circle K clerk in Tucson filed a lawsuit against her employer alleging that the company provided negligent security which allowed a customer to abduct and sexually assault her. According to the newspaper article in the Arizona Daily Star,

Circle K should have known of “criminal dangers” at that store. . . . [T]he company should have staffed at least two employees overnight and equipped the store with appropriate security measures, including an alarm or panic button.

“As a result of defendant Circle K breaching its duties as alleged above, plaintiff was left unreasonably vulnerable to an attack that was both reasonably foreseeable and reasonably preventable,” the lawsuit states.

If a plaintiff sues a criminal for causing harm, clearly a jury would likely find the criminal responsible for the conduct causing injury. However, I am curious what you think about lawsuits alleging that a third-party defendant’s negligence allowed a criminal act to occur. Do you believe an employer has a responsibility to take precautions to prevent work-place crime? Should a convenience store provide extra safety precautions for female employees working late night shifts? How about other criminal conduct? Does a bar have an obligation to prevent its customers from drinking to excess and driving? Do businesses have an obligation to secure computer systems to minimize risk of identity theft?

All of these scenarios look to hold others accountable for preventing forseeable criminal conduct. Do you believe that our society should hold third party defendants accountable for preventing forseeable risk of harm by other criminals? I believe a company or individual has such an obligation as long as the alleged criminal conduct involves reasonably forseeable behavior and that the failure to take reasonable precautions created an opportunity for a criminal to commit an illegal act. The nature of litigation would likely explore issues such as what industry standards or reasonable security precautions are available to protect individuals from harm and whether the lack of such precautions caused or contributed to the harm. In light of recent criminal tragedies, I’d like to hear your opinions about whether individuals or businesses should be held accountable for failing to take reasonable security precautions resulting in a means and an opportunity to engage in criminal activity. Does holding others accountable encourage society to take safety and security seriously?