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As a lawyer handling East Point criminal attack victim cases, I regularly
look at the Georgia law on negligent security that applies to my East
Point clients as well as to my clients throughout Georgia. Georgia’s
negligent security laws, also known as premises liability law, apply when
property owners or managers do not provide a reasonable amount of security
to customers and patrons coming onto the property. I have been writing
Georgia legal blog entries on the law related to premises liability cases
in Georgia.

Under Georgia’s premises liability law, an owner or manager of property
is liable for a criminal attack if he has reason to foresee that the attack
will occur. Although the victim does not have to prove that similar attacks
have occurred in the past, courts consider evidence about other criminal
attacks to be potential proof that a criminal attack on this new victim
was foreseeable to the owner.

1. The court will not ignore prior crimes against employees just because
the person who was attacked was a guest or a patron, as opposed to an
employee.

In the past, property owners have made the somewhat silly argument that
crimes against employees should not “count” as crimes that
would help them foresee a crime against a customer. The Court of Appeals
made short work of that argument in
Shoney’s, Inc. v. Hudson, 218 Ga. App. 171, 172 (Ga. Ct. App. 1995). In that case, a female customer
had been the victim of a criminal attack in a Savannah parking lot used
by a Shoney’s Restaurant. Several Shoney’s employees had been
attacked in that same parking lot, but no other customer had been attacked
there. Shoney’s argued that the crimes against employees were different
from the crimes against the restaurant patrons, and therefore they did
not put Shoney’s on notice that one of its customers could be attacked.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the argument, stating that it:

. . . reject[ed] any contention that the prior criminal acts in this case
are not substantially similar as a matter of law because they were perpetrated
against restaurant employees. To hold otherwise would require a conclusion
that defendant would somehow protect its employees from robbery or attack
differently than it would protect its customers. Consequently, we cannot
conclude as a matter of law that the prior incidents on defendant’s
premises were not substantially similar to the incident at issue here.

Id.

2. The court will not draw fine distinctions between types of crimes in
order to dismiss the plaintiff’s suit.

Many times a defendant will go to great extremes, arguing that tiny differences
between crimes make one type of crime dissimilar to the other. These arguments
miss the point of premises liability law. The point is to make the liability
fair, not to create loopholes that will excuse a failure to provide security.
In one case, the distinctions drawn were so fine that the Court of Appeals
was prompted to say: “[T]hat this case contains issues of fact to
be decided only by a jury is proved by the fact that fine factual distinctions
as to the types of previous crimes committed on the premises must be so
extensively argued and counterargued, disputed and debated by the parties
so as to show no similarity or warning therein . . . .”
McNeal v. Days Inn of Am., 230 Ga. App. 786, 787 (Ga. Ct. App. 1998). In McNeal, the plaintiff alleged
he had suffered a personal injury because of a lack of security at a hotel
in Rome, Georgia.