Businesses that welcome the general public owe the highest duty of care to ensure those guests are safe when they are welcomed onto company property. However, one of the largest retailers in the world has come under fire these last several months for allegedly failing to have adequate security to protect both shoppers and workers alike.
Wal-Mart has reportedly become a regular stop for law enforcement across the country, much to the chagrin of local police agencies and worker advocacy groups. Last July, The State reported that the 24-7 Wal-Mart located in Camden, SC (a small town outside Columbia) is where 14 percent of the local police department’s calls for service are generated. From January to June of last year, 187 of the agency’s 1,372 calls were from Wal-Mart. That’s an average of one a day. This is reportedly typical of stores like this, which offer around-the-clock service for everything from electronics to bread. Many of those calls may involve shoplifters. However, these incidents sometimes involve very violent encounters.
Labor groups are now pushing for the retail giant to improve security, both in the store and around its parking lots, according to Bloomberg. The groups say the problem has gotten so serious that they have taken to meeting with officials in numerous cities to discuss declaring the store a public nuisance in the hope that will pressure the retailer to improve its security efforts.
Although the incidents cited do involve some petty crimes, the failure to invest in proper security has been cited in cases like an autistic boy abducted from a store in upstate New York, a Florida man beaten with his own cane inside a store, a woman stabbed to death in a parking lot in Alabama, and a good Samaritan shot and killed in the parking lot of a Texas store while trying to stop a woman from being beaten.
Claims of injuries predicated on inadequate security are known as premises liability lawsuits. These are situations wherein people are victimized by a violent assault on someone else’s property and seek to hold the property owner or controller responsible because the property owner knew about the risks but failed to take meaningful action or warn customers.
Some examples of security measures that may be undertaken at high-crime locations include:
- Hiring full-time, off-duty police officers or certified security guards;
- Ensuring the security staff is properly trained;
- Installing adequate lighting in parking lots;
- Having visible surveillance cameras around the property so that would-be assailants know their actions are being monitored; and
- Designing the parking lot or store to be unattractive for someone hoping to get away quickly.
There is no concrete standard that stores have to follow, and a lot of it is going to depend on which kinds of incidents have been reported at that location within a given period of time. This allows a plaintiff to prove foreseeability. That is, a certain criminal activity was reasonably foreseeable, and therefore, the property owner owed a duty of care to customers to protect against it.
The store says it is taking the security issue seriously. A representative told The State it plans on hiring 9,000 additional employees to create “more at the doors.” That is, the store is hoping to beef up staff presence at the entrances and exits to serve as a crime deterrent.
If you have suffered a personal injury in a store parking lot or property, our injury attorneys can help you explore your legal options.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Wal-Mart Is Under Pressure to Fix Its Crime Problem, Dec. 7, 2016, By Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg
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Anderson v. Hilton Hotels Corp. – Hotel Liability for Criminal Attack, Nov. 21, 2016, Greenville Injury Lawyer Blog