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REAL ESTATE AND THE LAW

Is Mall Owner Liable for Crime in a Store?

April 11, 1993|R.J.B. | Special to The Times

Ann worked in a photo store at the Plaza Shopping Center. Shortly after Ann opened the store at 8 a.m., a man armed with a knife entered the store, attacked Ann behind the service counter and raped her.

She sued the shopping mall owner for negligence in failing to provide adequate security which, she said, would have prevented the rape. But the landlord replied there had been no previous felonies at the shopping center during daylight hours and having walking security patrols wouldn't prevent crime inside the leased stores.

If you were the judge would you award damages for negligence by the shopping center landlord?

The judge said no.

"Lessors of commercial property clearly owe a duty to tenants and their employees to maintain the leased premises and common areas in a reasonably safe condition. This includes the duty to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable criminal activity by third persons," the judge explained.

But there was no evidence of any serious criminal activity at the shopping mall during daylight hours, he emphasized, so the landlord had no legal duty to prevent criminal activity such as this unfortunate rape. Since there was no negligence by the landlord, there is no liability to Ann for not having walking security patrols during daylight hours, the judge ruled.

Based on the 1993 California Court of Appeal decision in Miller vs. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center, 14 Cal.Rptr.2d 272.

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