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Liability for Gun Violence Could Fall on Property Owners


shot glasses

As the daily news makes abundantly clear, shootings and other senseless criminal acts happen all the time and in a variety of places in Florida including bars, nightclubs, apartment complexes, gas stations, and even malls. Just in 2016, 49 innocent victims were slaughtered at an Orlando nightclub called Pulse, marking the second deadliest shooting in the nation’s history.

If you are ever injured in a shooting, you might be surprised to know that it is not just the shooter who might be liable. Here’s an overview of how property owners and managers in Florida might be liable for your injuries.

Property Owners Could Be Liable If Gun Violence Causes Your Injury

In Florida, a property owner could be held liable if your injuries occur on their premises, even when the harm is caused by another person. A property owner could be liable if anything bad happens to you while on their premises, such as a robbery, assault, or even an injury from a stray bullet.

It’s not just property owners who could be liable for your injury. In fact, those who control or manage a business could be at fault. Think of a nightclub in which there are bouncers, doormen, and security guards. These individuals are there to ensure the safety of those on the premises, not simply to flex their muscles. So, if a nightclub owner does not staff enough bouncers, leaving you with little to no protection when someone attacks you, then you could sue the nightclub for negligent security. Alternatively, if a security guard at your apartment complex is inattentive or sleeping on the job when someone breaks in and shoots you, then you could sue that apartment complex for its negligent security.

Proving That Negligent Security Resulted in Your Injury

In order to prevail in a negligent security lawsuit, you first have to show that the property owner or management was legally responsible for providing basic security measures. Things like the presence of security personnel, the methods for ensuring against unauthorized access, or even the lighting in a place can become a factor.

Next, you have to show that your injury was caused by the lack of appropriate security by the property owner or management. For example, if there was supposed to be a bouncer located in the section of a nightclub in which a shooting occurred, and you were shot, then you could argue that you would not have been shot if the nightclub had a security guard in the appropriate section. If your apartment’s management was supposed to secure an entrance which was instead left open and which allowed a person to make their way into your building and shoot you, then you could argue that if it wasn’t for the apartment complex’s failure to secure that entrance, you would not have been shot.

A Quick Word on Premises Liability

In Florida, you fall into one of three classifications when you are on someone else’s property:

  • A business visitor (invitee),
  • Social guest (licensee), or
  • Trespasser.

Business visitors (invitees) require the highest standard of care. You might be on someone’s property for business—which could mean buying a drink at a nightclub, for instance. Business owners have to keep their establishment safe and must either notify you of dangers pertaining to the property or make repairs to it.

Social guests (licensees), who require the second highest standard of care, have to be at least warned of dangers on the property. These include hazards like malfunctioning elevators and wet floors.

Finally, property owners owe a limited duty to trespassers to protect against a reckless or intentional injury. This means a property owner can’t set a trap for a trespasser or shoot at one just because they are on their property.

If you were injured on property that was in a state of disrepair or otherwise unsafe for guests, then you could bring a lawsuit against that property owner or manager to obtain compensation.

Florida Negligent Security Attorneys

If you have been injured in a shooting or other criminal act, get medical attention first and then consider consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney who is well versed in premises liability and negligent security cases.

At The Watson Firm, PLLC, our Pensacola personal injury attorneys have extensive experience with these types of lawsuits and are prepared to aggressively pursue all remedies against those responsible to help you obtain the compensation that you are entitled to. Call (850) 607-2929 to consult with experienced counsel who can assist you with your case.