When most people think about premises liability cases, what comes to mind are typically accidents/injuries that could have been prevented if not for the negligence of the property owner. Some examples include: slip and fall accidents on wet floors without a warning sign, falling debris from a structurally unsound building, accidents due to a lack of lighting, the list goes on. However, not all premises liability cases only involve personal injury lawyers like those at Shaw Cowart LLP,  as some cases fall into the field of criminal defense.   

Here, we want to discuss how in some instances premises liability can be utilized in a sexual assault case. 

What Is Premises Liability?

According to Nolo, premises liability can be best explained as the injury of an individual that either directly or indirectly resulted from an unsafe condition on someone’s property. Like most personal injury cases, premises liability is based on the negligence of an individual, which in this case would be the property’s owner. And for a premises liability claim to be successful, the defendant must be able to prove that their injury could or would have been prevented if the property owner had taken the necessary precautions to ensure they were not subjected to harm or at least made aware of potential danger. 

What Is Sexual Assault?

In legal terms, sexual assault is defined by the Department of Justice as “any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, or State law, including when the victim lacks capacity to consent.” Therefore, any sexual action or intention from one individual to another where there is no consent given or resistance, either verbal or physical, can be classified as sexual assault. Staggeringly, in the United States, it has been stated that around 81% of women and 43% of men have reported that they have experienced sexual harassment/assault at some point in their life. 

How Are Sexual Assault And Premises Liability Connected?

Although acts of sexual assault can take place anywhere and at any time, there are an increasing number of cases that may have been prevented if not for the unsafe environment an individual was in at the time. If an individual is sexually assaulted at a location that was increasingly unsafe due to negligence by the owner, the property owner may be held partially responsible in some regard for the victim’s pain and suffering. As noted by the American Bar Association, premises liability claims for third-party criminal acts have been increasing in recent years, which means property owners are being held to a higher standard than in the past.

How To Prevent Being Liable for Sexual Assault On Your Property

As we’ve discussed, property managers, owners and landlords alike are responsible for protecting you from reasonable harm. According to Los Angeles sexual assault lawyers at Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, a survivor can seek damages against you for economic reasons (financial damages associated with the property, medical expenses & lost wages), and non-economic damages (emotional toll, pain, suffering, etc). These become your responsibility to compensate when your grounds are deemed unfit for a safe environment. In order to prevent the liability being in your hands, do the following things:

  1. Install a proper security system. Alarms, cameras, reliable parts, monitoring system, recording feature.
  2. Install high-security locks.
  3. Implement motion-sensored lights.
  4. Maintain your landscaping.
  5. Keep your phone on at all times in case a tenant is in need.

By following through on these precautions, it’s much less likely you’ll find yourself involved in a premises liability case if an assault is to take place on your premises. As a general rule, being overly thorough is always going to keep you, and your tenants, as safe as possible.