Crime Scene Liability

By Michener, John A. | Risk Management, May 2005 | Go to article overview

Crime Scene Liability

Michener, John A., Risk Management

When a crime occurs on your property, who is responsible?

November 24, 2002: a night of socializing fun at a party for teenagers turned into tragedy when a fatal shooting erupted at the event. Hundreds of youths were attending a dance at the Troostwood Banquet Hall in Kansas City, Missouri when Yntrell Duley confronted rival gang members on the dance floor. Duley pulled a handgun, fired into the crowd and fled. Three youths were wounded, and 17-year-old Kristi Carroll was fatally struck in the head.

The shooting was obviously a criminal act, and Duley was later convicted of second-degree murder as well as numerous other charges. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 189 years. But the incident also spawned a civil liability trial, which ended with the jury awarding the victim's parents a $5 million verdict against the banquet hall owners.

The parents' grief, transferred to a lawsuit, is yet another example of how victims of crime are no longer solely relying on the criminal court system for justice. Increasingly, these victims are becoming plaintiffs, suing parties who may have some association with the crime. The most common thread tying a firm to a crime is simply that the crime happened on company property. To prevent your firm from becoming a victim of a damaging lawsuit, it is important to understand how companies are sued for other people's crimes and what can be done to protect a business from unfair liability verdicts.

Crime can occur anywhere: a robbery in a fast food restaurant, a shooting in a plant by an employee's estranged spouse, a rape in a company restroom, or an assault in a private motor home parked on a casino parking lot. The criminal is obviously to blame in all these cases, but that is not stopping victims from asking the courts to decide if the property owner should pay damages to the victim for not preventing the crime.

The criminal is often a complete stranger to the owner of a crime scene location. But what if you know a dangerous person is on your property? What if an employee poses a criminal threat? If a customer, employee, tenant or anyone else is the victim of a criminal attack on your firm's property, then there is a good chance you are going to get sued.

Is There a Duty to Prevent Violent Crime?

In order to hold a company responsible, the victim must prove three things: the property or business owner had a duty to protect him or her from harm; the owner breached that duty; and the owner and/or property manager contributed to cause the injury. The issue of a firm's responsibility often hangs on whether or not the owner had a duty to prevent the criminal attack. Without duty, there can be no legal responsibility. A judge usually determines if duty exists and can dismiss the case if the company had no duty to prevent the crime. That scenario avoids a jury trial in which a sympathetic jury might award large damages based on the simple notion that a company "could have done something more" to prevent the crime.

There is general agreement on two basic principles when determining if a person has a duty to prevent a violent crime. First, a person typically does not have a duty to protect another person from violent crime. Second, there may be a duty if a crime is reasonably foreseeable. Beyond that, there is little agreement regarding what circumstances will create a duty by a property owner to prevent criminal attacks on his or her property. The law continues to evolve as different courts take different approaches from state to state and sometimes even within a state.

Part of what makes a criminal attack foreseeable is the relationship between the victim and the company. There must be some sort of relationship before a company can be held responsible, but it does not have to be much. Customers, guests and generally anyone who comes onto a property with some kind of permission can sue the owner. Once a relationship is shown, then the question is whether the crime was reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Crime Scene Liability


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.