A New Theory of Premises Liability: Negligent Undertaking

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2023 | Contract Disputes

If a property owner or major tenant, adopts protective measures, such as security guards, and a visitor is injured, the owner or tenant is liable for the injury only if either (a) the safety undertaking of hiring security guards increased the risk of harm or (b) the victim reasonably relied on the protective measures to her detriment.

In the October 24, 2023 case of The Irvine Company LLC v. Superior Court, a customer at the Fashion Island shopping center got very drunk, walked up to the fourth floor of the parking structure, hoisted herself up onto the exterior wall which was forty-three inches high, taller than the forty-two inches required by the building code and the city-approved plans, sat up there for a while, and then toppled off, suffering severe spinal cord injury.

The plaintiff conceded that there was nothing inherently dangerous about the garage or the forty-three inch tall exterior walls. The plaintiff’s legal theory was that the shopping center employed a security guard service which included guards to monitor CCTVs, that the contract with the guard service included enforcement of the shopping center rules, and that one of those rules was to detect and stop “horseplay.” Her lawyers’ theory was that the shopping center undertook and assumed the duty to protect her from her own horseplay, by hiring guards to enforce the rules.

The Court of Appeal held that, as a matter of law, hiring the security guards (a) did not increase the risk of harm to the plaintiff, and that (b) the plaintiff had not reasonably relied on the presence of the security guards to protect her from her own horseplay and the detriment cause by her own acts.

I have written in previous notes on this website, that when a property owner hires security guards or installs security cameras, it has confessed that it has actual knowledge of a dangerous condition for which it needs to protect its visitors. That dangerous condition for which the owner is undertaking protection is criminal activity of third parties breaking into and stealing cars, robbing visitors or, at some venues, fighting. It is not to prevent irresponsible behavior, horseplay, by visitors. The owner or master tenant has not confessed that the shopping center has a dangerous condition of people getting drunk and doing things which are dangerous.

If you have questions about hiring security guards, installing security cameras or undertaking other safety measures at your shopping center, store, clinic or other business location, please call the lawyers at Sack Rosendin Inc. Let our success work for you.