All businesses have a duty to protect customers from attacks and assault on their premises. Knowledge of being in a high risk area or of being a high risk store elevates this responsibility. Unfortunately, in warehouse stores, big box stores, and super discount stores the trend in security is to focus on shoplifting, employee theft, and monitoring employee behavior to prevent organizing against the company, rather than to provide for the safety of customers.
The misplaced priorities of security in these stores is highlighted by the fact that security is now called “loss prevention” and that shoplifters (who pose no physical risk to customers or employees) are pursued aggressively and with excessive force, sometimes resulting in death , while customers and employees are still allowed to be injured and killed by violent crimes occurring on the premises.
Crimes commonly resulting from negligent security include:
- Assault and battery
- Sexual assault
- Child molestation
Stores are aware of the dangers
In order to prove negligent security, you must prove that the crime was foreseeable. Businesses must have reasonable knowledge that crime is likely to occur on their premises. It is a well known fact that assaults, abductions, and other crimes are a serious risk when shopping at big box stores. Elements of foreseeability include:
- Prior crimes on the premises
- Nature of the business
- Crime statistics for the area
- Knowledge of a specific threat
- Layout of the property
In 1996, Wal-Mart reported that 80% of its crimes occurred outside of the store in parking lots and the exterior perimeter. In 1994, Wal-Mart discovered that roving patrols in high crime parking lots could eliminate crime in the parking lots entirely, but by 2000, it had only increased the number of stores with these patrols from 11% to 17%.
The documentary film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, revealed 70 Wal-Mart parking lot crimes, many of them violent, occurring in just the first seven months of 2005.
In January, 2005, 19 year old Wal-Mart clerk Megan Holden, was abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot in Tyler, Texas. Her body was found to days later, nearly 400 miles away. The abduction was caught on tape, but nobody was watching. Nobody was watching because the camera was never meant to be used to protect customers or employees. It was part of a “union package,” surveillance equipment installed solely for the purpose of spying on employees to detect any behavior which may indicate that they are trying to organize and join a union. Had someone been watching as the camera caught the abduction, they could have contact the police, possibly in time to save her life.
Wal-Mart is not the only store where customers and employees are in danger of violent crime. Large retail stores such as Kmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Toys ‘R Us, present similar risks, owe their customers the same level of care, and are aware of the dangers and the need for adequate security measures.
Customers often mistakenly believe that the massive number of security guards inside of stores and the surveillance cameras in the parking lots trained squarely on them and their vehicles as they enter, leave, and load their purchases, are their to provide safety from attacks. Loss prevention is as selfish as the term implies. It is there to protect stores from losing money and merchandise, not to provide security for people.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a violent crime which occurred at a big box, warehouse, or super discount store, you may be entitled to compensation under premises liability law. If you have lost a loved one due to their injuries, you case would also fall under wrongful death . If you believe that you have been injured due to negligence or wrongdoing of one of these stores, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.