Last week our nation suffered a horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. Stephen Paddock rented a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, transported approximately 23 assault weapons to his room along with thousands of rounds of ammunition, stayed in the room for approximately 3 days and then opened fire on the 91 Harvest festival injuring over 500 people and killing 58 other concert goers.
Clearly, Mr. Paddock is criminally and civilly responsible for the mass murder of the concert goer along with the personal injuries suffered by those who survived the attack. However, the question becomes whether those who were injured and the family of those who were killed can make a claim for injuries and/or wrongful death against the Mandalay Bay Hotel and/or the concert venue. Under California Law, making a claim against a company or hotel for negligent security for injuries suffered by criminal acts of third parties can be difficult but not impossible. For those victims of the Las Vegas tragedy who reside in California, they may have potential claims against the Mandalay Bay for potential negligence in providing security.
- Making a Negligent Security Claim in California When a Hotel or Venue Provides Security
Once a landowner agrees to provide security for a hotel or other venue, they have a duty to provide the security a reasonable manner. In the California Appellate court case of Lopez v. Baca (2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 1008, 1018-1019 the court found that “…once the restaurant hired the security guard, it assumed a duty to protect customers from criminal attack. citing Trujillo v. G.A. Enterprises, Inc.(1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1105, 1108–1109 (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1105, 1108–1109.
In the case of the Mandalay Bay, the perpetrator was able to:
- bring up an arsenal of weapons and ammunition to his room,
- place camera devices in the hallway outside his room to detect any potential security,
- stay in the room for days planning the attack and then break open the windows in his 32nd-floor hotel room and fire upon defenseless concert goers just outside the hotel.
The failure to stop such conduct by the Mandalay Bay who provides security in their hotel as do most Las Vegas casino hotels, may be sufficient to prove negligence against the hotel. The hotel may try to argue that they never agreed to provide security to persons at the concert who were not staying at the hotel which may be a defense and the issue of foreseeability of the harm based on the actions of the perpetrator just prior to the attack may resolve whether there is liability for the victims injuries and wrongful death. See Delgado v. Trax Bar and Grill (2005) 36 Cal4th 224.
2. Making a Claim against a Venue for Negligent Security Based on Prior Similar Criminal Acts
Many venues and hotels will claim that they don’t provide or agree to provide any law enforcement type security against impending criminal acts. Whether a venue has a duty to provide such security may come down to whether they had notice of prior similar criminal acts in the area. “A landlord’s general duty of maintenance includes the duty to take reasonable steps to secure the common areas against third party criminal acts—where these acts are foreseeable” (Barber v. Chang (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 1456, 1466-1467; Ann M. v. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center (1993) 6 Cal.4th 666. 674,.)
To establish foreseeability, a Plaintiff need only show “prior similarcriminal incidents (or other indications of a reasonably foreseeable risk of violent criminal assaults in that location) and does not require a showing of prior nearly identical criminal incidents.” (Delgado v. Trax Bar & Grill (2005) 36 Cal.4th 224, 245) If your claim is that a hotel or venue failed to provide adequate security in California, one must on most occasions show that there were prior similar crimes on the premises requiring adequate security to prevent such crimes in the future.
Perhaps if the victims in the Las Vegas shooting can show even prior assault or gun-related crimes on the premises of the hotel, along with the fact that the hotel took steps to provide security, the potential claimants may be able to show foreseeability to get by the duty requirement in negligent security cases. For example, in the California case of Yan Fang Tan v. Arnel Management Co. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1087, the Plaintiff was shot by a perpetrator in a parking lot of an apartment complex during a carjacking. The parking lot was unsecured.
There had been three prior violent acts at the apartment complex before the shooting of the Plaintiff. First, bicycle patrol guard had been attacked by a person at night that had been standing near the parking garage. The second was a robbery at the parking lot that had happened a year before the shooting of the Plaintiff. Assailants had blocked in a victim in their car in the parking lot, struck the victim in the head and took his personal property. The third prior incident was a violent assault on a victim in the parking where the victims suffered heavy facial bleeding. Based on those prior acts of violence, the California Court of Appeal found there was sufficient evidence of prior similar acts to establish foreseeability for future violence. If the victims of the Las Vegas attack want to bring an action against the concert venue, they may have to show at least some prior violent acts at or near the premises.
3. Damages for Negligent Security
If a victim of negligent security is able to establish liability against a hotel or concert venue, the will be entitled to damages for their personal injuries. Such damages include past and future medical bills, past and future lost earnings and compensation for past and future pain and suffering. In the case of a family who lost a loved one they will be entitled to wrongful death damages which may include loss of financial support income, gifts, household services. Moreover, family members may be entitled to damages for loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society and moral support.
If you or a loved one is injured or killed by the negligent security of a landlord, hotel, venue or other property owner, you should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury and/or negligent security attorney to determine your rights for legal recourse and just compensation.