In Atlanta, crimes such as shootings, rapes, robberies, or assaults occur on many commercial properties, including hotels and motels. Under Georgia law, a victim of a crime that occurs on the property of an unsafe hotel or motel may be able to recover against the hotel or motel for negligent security.
Negligent security is a type of premises liability claim. Premises liability cases in Georgia rest on the principle that a property owner has the legal duty to make sure that lawful visitors or “invitees” to its property are safe from dangerous conditions. An invitee of a hotel or motel includes guests, and dangerous conditions can include crimes that are committed by unrelated persons who come on to the property or even other motel or hotel guests.
Hotel and motel owners have the duty to protect its guests from “foreseeable” criminal acts, even if the crimes are committed by third parties. Thus, one of the factors that a victim of a crime on an unsafe property has to prove is that the crime was foreseeable. You may ask how anyone could predict the future to foresee the criminal act of a third party. Some factors that show that a property owner should have foreseen a criminal act are past crimes that occurred on the property or complaints about criminal behavior from customers, employees, or other guests.
Another requirement of proving a negligent security claim against an unsafe motel or hotel is that, despite knowing about the potential for crime, the property owner’s failure to act to protect against the criminal act caused its guest to be victimized by a criminal. For example, if a hotel or motel owner has warning about potential crimes and failed to take actions such as hiring private security guards, installing surveillance cameras, installing fences and gates around the property, or controlling access to the building, then the victim may argue that the motel or hotel owner foresaw the crime and its failure to take action caused the crime to occur.
Another factor that is important to winning a negligent security case against a hotel or motel is that the guest who is victimized could not have had more knowledge about the impending crime than the hotel or motel did. If the guest or victim knew about the risk of a criminal attack but failed to act reasonably to protect himself/herself, a jury could find that the victim’s behavior contributed to the crime. For example, the victim could have left the door to his or her motel room wide open without locking it. In court, if a jury finds that the victim was more than 49% negligent, then the victim cannot recover against the motel owner.
Additionally, one of the motel/hotel owner’s defenses in these negligent security cases is that they are not at fault for a criminal’s acts. Thus, they often defend themselves by placing the blame on the criminals themselves. Georgia law allows a jury to “apportion” or put some or all of the blame on the criminals themselves. Thus, an attorney handling a negligent security case must conduct a thorough investigation of the property owner’s knowledge about crime, warning signs, complaints, past incidents, policies and procedures regarding safety, and other factors that could show the hotel or motel owner knew about the potential for crime and failed to act to protect its guests. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a crime that occurred on an unsafe hotel or motel property, please call Betty Nguyen Davis (404) 647-0722, and we will help you evaluate your case.