Negligent Security Questions Raised in Wake of Florida Nightclub Shooting
Gregg Hollander | July 14, 2016 | Premise Liability
Following a massacre at a nightclub in Orlando by an American security guard who claimed terrorist ties, Florida now has the dubious distinction of being the site of the largest modern-day mass shooting.
Investigators are still working to piece together what exactly happened and the true motive of Omar Mateen, a New York native who frequented the gay nightclub in the months before the horrific attack. They will also be looking at the kind of security the nightclub had and the emergency response.
In civil litigation, third-party attacks can be compensable by a business if the property owner/ manager could have foreseen the attack and failed to take adequate measures to stop it. For example, if a club that serves alcohol and is know to have frequent disturbances that require police intervention does not invest in hiring the appropriate number of bouncers and other staff to keep the crowd safe, it could be held liable for negligent security.
In the Orlando nightclub shooting, it’s questionable whether any business could have anticipated someone charging into the building with an AK-47 or what the property owner could have done to prevent it from happening. It might be a hard sell to assert that the club owner should have anticipated the potential for violence on this scale, but will depend on what the history at the club was. Were there threats issued before the attack? Was security so lax that anyone with a firearm could have easily gained entry? What kind of preventative measures were in place, what kind of training did staffers have and was this reasonable in light of the club’s history? Those are answers that victims’ families are going to want.
The other thing to consider in cases like this is whether the business has assets that would make such a case worth pursuing. Some have described the nightclub as something of a “shoestring operation,” run out of a fairly inexpensive building. Even if there is evidence the nightclub was in any way negligent, it’s not clear how much insurance the business had. Even a decent-sized policy may not go far when you’re talking about 49 people murdered and 50 more seriously injured.
Still, our Fort Lauderdale negligent security attorneys would hope this incident will spark a discussion on the safety standards of businesses that cater to large groups of people. There are still those who are going to target individuals, with motives like robbery or sexual assault. But venue owners and operators may now also need to consider safety in an atmosphere when the goal is, “How many people can I harm?”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if this threat is going to subside anytime soon. There was the husband-and-wife team who shot and killed 14 in San Bernardino in December. Then there was the 12 people murdered in a Colorado movie theater in 2012. That same year, a 20-year-old gunman killed 27 people – including dozens of children – at an elementary school in Connecticut.
In the Colorado movie theater shooting, a federal judge recently decided the case in favor of the movie theater, clearing the owner of premises liability claims. That’s been the first real test in these types of cases. But of course, the circumstances in each situation will be different.
Victims of this type of violence may be entitled to compensation from a number of different avenues, so it’s important to consult with an experienced injury lawyer to explore legal options.
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Orlando Shooting Spawns Negligent Security Queries, June 13, 2016, By Samantha Joseph, Daily Business Review