Lawsuit Tests the Limits of Premises Liability Laws


Shoppers at retail locations in New York and throughout the country generally expect a level of safety and security while on the premises. A lawsuit filed against Walmart may clarify the specific steps that an establishment is supposed to take to keep its patrons safe. The lawsuit was filed after a shooting at a Walmart store on Aug. 3 in El Paso, and the victims claim that the company was negligent because it had no armed security personnel at the time the shooting happened.

However, Walmart contends that it does have a policy in place when determining security needs at a given store. It claims it uses a combination of off-duty police officers, plain clothes officers, and traditional security guards to keep customers safe. Since the shooting, the store is being protected by off-duty police officers. According to one property management professional, most retailers employ loss prevention employees instead of using security guards.

Cameras or metal detectors may also be used in lieu of police officers or security guards in a given store. To win their case, the victims will need to show that Walmart knew that a dangerous person would be entering their location and did nothing to stop it. The plaintiffs might also get a favorable verdict if they can show that prior incidents would have led a reasonable store owner to take precautions to keep shoppers safe.

If a store has inadequate security, it may mean that it is liable for any injuries that a person experiences while there. An attorney may be able to show that a property owner or landlord knew or should have known that there was a risk of a fight or other violent act occurring there. Therefore, failing to protect an injured victim might be seen as an act of negligence.