In Cain v. Shell Oil, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court explains the circumstances under which a property owner may be held liable for a crime committed on the premises by an unrelated third party.

Mr. Cain was shot a number of times during an early morning incident at a Circle K gas station and convenience store in Tallahassee. Cain was at the store to fill his car with gas when a gun fight erupted in the Circle K parking lot. He later sued Circle K for premises liability.

Florida law provides that a property owner may be held liable for a crime committed on the property by someone other than the owner, if the person suing can show that the crime was “foreseeable.” Section 768.0705, Florida Statutes provides, however, that a business owner that implements certain security measures – including equipping a convenience store with cameras, lighting parking lots and implementing measures to limit the cash on hand and inform the public of those limits – is entitled to a presumption against liability for criminal acts committed by third parties.

Circle K filed a motion for summary judgment on Cain’s claim, arguing that the gun fight wasn’t foreseeable and that the company was entitled to the presumption against liability under Section 768.0705. The District Court disagreed, saying that it couldn’t conclude based on the evidence provided that the shootout was “so freakish and improbable” that no reasonable person could find that it wasn’t foreseeable.

In reaching this decision, the Court noted that the convenience store was located in a high crime area and that the company’s loss prevention manger had recommended that Circle K implement enhanced security measures, including requiring that at least two employees be on duty during overnight hours or simply closing the store during certain late night/early morning hours, before the shooting occurred. The manager also acknowledged that local police expressed concern about the company’s ability to control crowds at the store during overnight hours, particularly around times when a number of bars and clubs in the surrounding area closed.

Meanwhile, a former store employee testified that parking lot crowds swelled around 1 and 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday nights and that the store’s manager refused her repeated requests to close the store for a few hours during these times. She further stated that she often smelled marijuana and observed people drinking alcohol in the parking lot during these times and that customers frequently complained of loud music and threats of fights.

Mr. Cain has presented sufficient facts for a reasonable jury to find that the shooting was foreseeable and not merely a freakish, improbable, or extraordinary event,” the Court held.

If you were recently injured in an accident and are interested in pursuing a claim against the property owner of the premises where you were injured, call the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Anidjar & Levine today. We represent clients throughout the region, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach. You can reach our Ft. Lauderdale offices at 800-747-3733 or by filling out an on-line “Contact Us” form.

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