Petrogram - Winter 2013 - (Page 17)
Staying Away from
Negligent Security Lawsuits
By Lourdes Espino Wydler, Esq., Marrero & Wydler
rime happens almost everywhere. The
effect of a criminal act can impact not
only a victim and suspect, but also the
place where it happens. Florida law holds
businesses accountable for crimes committed
on their property when it involves a third party.
Whether it is a strong arm robbery or violent
assault, gasoline station convenience stores
must know the law to protect their customers
or employees as well as themselves from a
negligent security lawsuit.
Courts have found that c-stores have a
duty to protect invitees from criminal attacks
that are reasonably foreseeable. To determine
whether a duty exists, they look at the foreseeability of the crime. The general Florida
rule, with some exceptions, is that any crime,
similar or not, occurring in approximately the
half-mile radius surrounding the property for a
two- or three-year period can be used as evidence of foreseeability against the business.
Once there is actual or constructive
knowledge of a foreseeable danger on the
premises, the business owner has a duty to
take reasonable measures to protect against
any criminal acts. For late night c-stores, the
Florida Convenience Business Security Act
spells out the safety devices and standards
that should be in place under §812.173:
The verdicts on negligent
security cases vary greatly
depending on the kind of
attack, the plaintiff's damages,
the foreseeability and
preventability by the c-store.
* A security camera system.
* A drop safe or cash management device.
* A lighted parking lot illuminated with certain
* A conspicuous notice at the entrance stating the cash register contains $50 or less.
* Window signage that allows a clear and
unobstructed view from outside the building.
* Height markers at the entrance.
* A cash management policy to limit the cash
on hand at all times after 11 p.m.
* No window tinting that reduces exterior or
interior view in a normal line of sight.
* A silent alarm to law enforcement or a private security agency.
If a murder, robbery, sexual battery aggravated assault, aggravated battery kidnapping
or false imprisonment has occurred at the
convenience business after July 1, 1989,
it should implement at least one of the following security measures from 11 p.m. to
5 a.m.: have two employees working; install
a secure safety enclosure; provide a security
guard; lock the business and only transact
business through an indirect pass-through
trough, trapdoor or window; or close the
business. The Act also requires c-stores to
provide to its employees within 60 days of
employment proper robbery deterrence and
safety training by an approved curriculum from
the Attorney General consistent with Florida
Statute §812.174. It is critical every two years
to have the training curriculum approved by
the Attorney General.
Violations of the Act for convenience businesses can result in civil penalties and they
may be required to show proof of compliance
after being given notice. All of the security
measures should be followed because it is
the uniform standard in Florida and it is supposed to prevent crimes against the late-night
consumer public and employees.
When defending a negligent security lawsuit, the importance of complying with the
Act gives c-store owners and operators a
presumption against liability in connection with
criminal acts on the premises under Florida
Statute §768.0705. Even when preventative
security measures are in place, there is no
guarantee that a crime will not occur and a
lawsuit is likely to follow. As part of the security
investigation during litigation:
* Preserve any video evidence that shows
the suspect or the plaintiff.
* Collect any employee drafted incident reports
documenting criminal acts on the property.
* Examine maintenance records for faulty
video cameras, alarms, locks, and lights.
* Review any security recommendations for
the premises like fencing or gating the surrounding area.
* Check with the local law enforcement agency
for police reports regarding the property.
* Obtain neighborhood crime grids.
* Confirm the employees completed company
safety training and followed policies.
These key evidentiary items will help a
c-store establish a strong legal defense. The
verdicts on negligent security cases vary
greatly depending on the kind of attack, the
plaintiff's damages, the foreseeability and
preventability by the c-store. There is no substitute for implementing security measures
to prevent crime and lawsuits, but they also
ultimately appeal to the public. When a c-store
has the appearance of being safe it attracts
more customers, increases its proﬁtability and
reduces potential liability.
Lourdes Wydler, Esq. (email@example.com)
is a partner at Marrero & Wydler, a law
firm concentrating its practice in personal
injury, negligent security, liquor liability, and
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Petrogram - Winter 2013
2013 FPMA Patron Members
Florida’s Petroleum Cleanup Program is Undergoing an Overhaul
As C-stores Branch Out, Channel Blurring Blossoms
Just Say No…to (Synthetic) Drugs
Staying Away from Negligent Security Lawsuits
FPMA’s 2013 Scholarship Golf Tournament and Conference of Committees
FPMA Featured Advertiser Marketplace
Calendar of Events
Index of Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Petrogram - Winter 2013