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When Can a Property Owner Be Held Liable for a Crime Committed on its Property?

Written by Ankin Law Office

The legal theory of premises liability governs when a property owner can be liable for accidents and injuries caused by negligence on his or her property, but what happens when a crime occurs on the property? Can a property owner be held liable for injuries sustained during a crime on his or her property?

As this article explains, a federal judge recently allowed a case against the property owner of the Colorado movie theater where 12 people were killed last summer to proceed. Cinemark USA had filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the lawsuits did not show that the company was liable under the Colorado Premises Liability, but Judge R. Brooke Johnson declined the defendant’s motion. The judge did, however, dismiss separate claims that Cinemark was negligent in the July 20 shootings.

This case highlights some of the tricky issues involved with premises liability lawsuits. Property owners are obligated to protect against dangerous and unsafe conditions on their property. In this case, the plaintiff’s lawyer argued, the dangerous condition was the unlocked and unmonitored exit door through which the shooter retrieved guns from his car.

In most states, the status of the plaintiff when the injury occurred is an important part of a premises liability case. The plaintiff is labeled as one of the following:

  • Invitee – Invited onto the property for the benefit of the owner (i.e. a customer at a store)
  • Licensee – Allowed onto the property with the consent of the owner (i.e. a social guest)
  • Trespasser – Enters the property without the owner’s consent

Property owners owe the greatest responsibility to invitees, such as movie goers or customers. Licensees are also protected, but they are typically expected to exercise a reasonable amount of care for their own safety. In most cases, property owners are not responsible for the safety of trespassers.

According to the Denver Post, the plaintiffs in this case have requested damages in an amount that will “fully and fairly compensate each of them for damages, losses and injury.” Generally, if the owner or manager of the property is found liable under a premises liability law, he or she is liable for money damages such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.

If you have been injured on someone else’s property, consult with a personal injury attorney to determine if you have premises liability case. The Chicago premises liability attorneys at Ankin Law Office are highly experienced handling premises liability cases of all types. Contact us at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable Chicago premises liability lawyers.

Categories: Personal Injury