The holidays can bring out both the best and worst in people. Point in fact, multiple people were shot during Black Friday sales across America, including at two Tennessee malls. These four separate shootings happened outside of the stores.
In one of the Tennessee attacks, a 21-year-old was critically injured in front of Memphis’s Wolfchase Galleria Mall the night before Black Friday, and the mall had started sales a day early. A 19-year-old identified by witnesses allegedly fired multiple shots in the parking lot. He was arrested for the shooting, but it wasn’t clear what his motive was.
In a Chattanooga attack, two people were wounded outside the mall after a fight inside it on Friday afternoon. One suspect was brought into custody.
Attacks like the ones at these two malls can cause serious injuries. Victims usually need to seek emergency care and follow-up medical treatment, and will likely need to take time off work during the recovery process. In some cases, the victim dies. Although a criminal case may be brought against the wrongdoer individually, this does not necessarily help the victim to deal with the financial and emotional repercussions of such attacks. Sometimes the criminal court awards restitution, but medical care is expensive. In some instances, the victim can bring a negligent security lawsuit in civil court against a mall to recover damages.
A negligent security lawsuit is one type of premises liability lawsuit. Negligent security lawsuits hold a property owner or business liable for injuries that occur on the property, even though they occurred due to third-party criminal conduct. Malls and shopping centers usually owe a duty to the customers they’ve invited onto their property to investigate, fix, and repair potential security issues to prevent injuries to individuals.
For example, mall parking lots may not be appropriately lit and a mall may not have enough security personnel to address the potential for fights or shootings. Mall exteriors may have broken fencing, defective security gates, poorly trained security personnel or bad practices for hiring security personnel, or fail to warn the public of increases in criminal conduct. Each of these poses a potential security issue that could dramatically increase the likelihood of a criminal attack.
In order to win a negligent security lawsuit in Tennessee, a plaintiff will need to establish negligence and notice (that the mall knew or should have known that there was a security failure or history of criminal attacks). This means that a plaintiff must establish that the shopping mall owed a duty to its customers and breached that duty, and that this was the legal cause of the criminal attack. The element of actual or constructive notice is usually proven by showing that the area around the mall had a high level of criminal activity of the same type as the criminal act that led to the lawsuit, or by showing that it was a building particularly susceptible to criminal attacks for another reason.
Actual notice in the context of mall shootings means that the mall owner actually knew about prior shootings and that there was an increased risk of shootings around the area. Actual notice tends to be hard to prove, as it often requires a business owner to admit that he or she knew about prior criminal attacks, and still did nothing about them.
Constructive notice can be a little easier to establish. It means that an owner should have known about the prior shootings even if he didn’t actually know. For example, if prior shootings in the area are adequately covered in the local newspaper or on television, an argument can be made that the owner of the mall should have known about them.
Businesses that are aware of criminal attacks in a particular area can foresee that their invitees may be hurt. Although hiring security guards is an extra cost, it may be necessary for a mall owner to pay this money to protect invitees from being shot. However, malls aren’t always held to be the absolute insurers of their customers’ safety and may not be able to guard against random and unforeseeable shootings. If they hired careful and trained security guards and employed proper safety procedures, the court may not impose the duty to do more than that.
In negligent security cases involving shootings or other third party criminal attacks, a dedicated attorney may consult and hire a safety expert to determine whether a property owner took appropriate steps to respond to increased criminal activity. These cases can be complex, and they often depend on the unique circumstances surrounding the attack.
If you are injured at a mall in Tennessee, the shopping center safety attorneys of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz may be able to help. Call us at 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation. Our team of lawyers can answer your questions and evaluate your case.