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Premises Liability for Third Party Crime

Anna Burgese, a resident of New Jersey, was attacked by a prostitute in the lobby of a Florida hotel she was staying in, after she was mistakenly thought to be a business rival. The assailant grabbed Ms. Burgese from behind and threw her headfirst into a stone wall. She is suing the company that owns the hotel under premises liability law.

In her lawsuit, Ms. Burgese alleges that hotel staff did not attempt to intervene and obstruct the assailant, and even helped her escape in a taxi. It is further alleged that the hotel is known for having a prostitute-friendly environment.

When can you sue the premises owner for injuries caused by another party who commits a crime against you?

A property owner is not generally an insurer against harm caused by third parties. However, under New York premises liability law, a premises owner can be liable for the injuries you suffer due to the actions of a third party if the following conditions are met:

  • Special relationship. There needs to be a special relationship through which the owner assumes a duty — i.e., the hotel may be responsible for  harm suffered by one of its paying guests and a business might be liable for harm suffered by its customers.
  • Foreseeability. If there is a history of recent crimes on or near the property that the property owner is or should be aware of, injuries caused by a third party criminal act could qualify as foreseeable by the property owner and the owner could be liable for harm caused by that act.
  • Inadequate precautions. Even if a special relationship exists between you and the property owner, and the danger was foreseeable, you also need to be able to demonstrate that the property owner did not adequately protect you against the foreseeable dangers.

Note that if your actions played a part in the injuries you suffered, your damages may be reduced to the extent that your own actions caused your injuries.

An attorney can help

If you have been injured in a hotel, a mall, a grocery store or other commercial institution, arrange a consultation with a supportive Suffolk County premises liability lawyer.

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