Baltimore Negligent Security Lawsuit Reinstated

In Ford v. Edmondson Village Shopping Center Holdings, LLC , Maryland Appellate Court examined the question of a landlord’s responsibility in protecting tenants from criminal acts committed by third parties on the landlord’s property.

Thankfully, the court found that an employee of a commercial tenant is considered to have the same legal status on the leased property as the employer-tenant itself, which is that of a tenant rather than a business invitee.  This means employees of the tenant can bring negligent security lawsuits in Maryland.

Facts of Ford v. Edmonson Village Shopping Center Holdings

Mr. Ford, who was the manager of Dollar General, was at work when two individuals, one of them armed with a handgun, entered the common areas of the Shopping Center and proceeded to rob Dollar General. Inadequate security measures were in place at the time. During the robbery, one of the assailants shot and fatally wounded Mr. Ford.

The Negligent Security Lawsuit

The family filed a negligent security lawsuit in Baltimore. The suit alleged that despite being aware of the pervasive criminal activity on the premises, the owner of Edmondson Village did not take sufficient steps to address the security issues.

The plaintiffs argued that Edmondson Village had a legal obligation to ensure Mr. Ford’s safety as an invitee and/or tenant on its property, which included protecting him from any foreseeable harm. However, it breached that duty by:

  1. Not taking necessary precautions to protect Mr. Ford from potentially dangerous conditions that were reasonably foreseeable, including criminal activities on the shopping center’s premises, of which they had actual or constructive knowledge;
  2. Neglecting to use reasonable care in managing and securing public areas within the shopping center’s premises;
  3. Failing to apply reasonable care in maintaining, improving, and/or increasing security measures despite awareness of the prevalence of violent crimes on the premises;
  4. Not adequately responding to patron complaints about suspicious behavior at the shopping center by conducting proper investigations; and
  5.  Otherwise behaving in a manner that was careless, reckless, and/or negligent.

Tough Area

This is a tough area. There were twelve larcenies and four burglaries in 2021. There were 90 reported cases of aggravated assaults within a two-block vicinity.

How was the security at this shopping center? Not good. The lawsuit claims the center’s security firm, Progressive Security, is a “fraudulent organization.”  Incredibly, if true, the suit claimed that the company’s chief operating officer had posed as a former police officer but instead had been twice – twice! – convicted of impersonating a police officer.  Apparently, the owner was on probation at the time the security contract was signed and he isn’t licensed to be a security guard or manage a security company.

So it is not hard to argue that the violent nature of the acts committed against Mr. Ford were foreseeable given the history of crimes in and around the Shopping Center and it lead to this man’s death.

Lawsuit Initially Dismissed

In response to the Fords’ lawsuit, Edmondson Village filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that Mr. Ford’s status as a tenant of Dollar General inside the leased premises absolves them of any duty to protect him from criminal acts committed by third parties within the store. However, the family argued that they had sufficiently pleaded facts that could support a duty on Edmondson Village’s part to take reasonable steps in protecting Mr. Ford from foreseeable criminal activity.

A Baltimore City judge ruled that, as a matter of law, Mr. Ford’s status was that of a tenant, not a business invitee, as he was an employee of Dollar General working within the leased premises. Consequently, Edmondson Village the judge found that it did not owe Mr. Ford a duty to protect him from criminal acts committed by third parties inside the leased premises.

The family appealed.

Appellate Court’s Ruling

The court’s opinion hinges on whether a landlord holds the responsibility of protecting a tenant from third-party crimes.

When the landlord is aware of criminal activities in common areas posing a threat to tenants, they have a duty to take appropriate measures to counteract conditions conducive to these activities. Maryland law is clear that when a landlord is aware of conditions in common areas leading to crimes within leased premises, a duty to protect the tenants from such crimes arises if these crimes could have been prevented had the landlord maintained their corrective measures.

In Maryland premises liability cases involving common areas retained by a landlord, over which the landlord maintains control, the Maryland Supreme Court has established that the duty owed by the landlord to the tenant in those common areas extends to the tenant’s family members, guests, invitees, and other individuals on the common area due to the tenant’s right to be present there.

This case is one of first impression for Maryland.  There is no Maryland case directly addresses the question of whether an employee of a commercial tenant holds the same status on the leased property as the employer-tenant itself.

In the present case, Mr. Ford entered Dollar General’s leased premises at the invitation of Dollar General to work there, and he was performing his duties when he was killed during a robbery inside the store. As such, he was not invited by Edmondson Village to work inside the leased premises, nor did he enter the premises as a customer.

Ultimately, the question of whether Edmondson Village owed Mr. Ford a duty of care to protect him from the criminal acts of third parties inside Dollar General cannot be definitively answered at this stage of the litigation, as the duty’s existence depends on the specific facts of the case, especially those related to the landlord’s knowledge. But from the plaintiffs’ perspective, this is a huge win because the court found that under Maryland law, an employee can sued the landlord for failing to provide adequate security.

Negligent Security Lawsuits in Baltimore

Negligent security lawsuits in Baltimore have become increasingly prevalent as the city’s high crime rate and the duty of landlords to provide safe living environments collide. Victims are seeking recourse – a settlement or jury payout – through the legal system, holding property owners accountable for failing to provide adequate security measures.

Negligent security lawsuits are a subset of premises liability cases, focusing on the responsibility of property owners to protect individuals lawfully present on their property from foreseeable criminal acts by third parties. Landlords have a duty to maintain reasonably safe premises, which includes providing appropriate security measures to prevent or minimize harm caused by criminal activities.

In Baltimore, where the crime rate has historically been high, negligent security lawsuits often involve incidents of assault, robbery, or even homicides occurring on the premises. Plaintiffs in these cases allege that the landlord failed to take adequate precautions despite knowing or should have known about the prevailing dangerous conditions.

The High Crime Rate in Baltimore

Baltimore’s high crime rate is a well-documented concern. The city has grappled with issues related to drug-related criminal activity, homicides, burglaries, and other violent crimes. Such circumstances make it imperative for landlords to adopt comprehensive security strategies to safeguard their properties and protect their tenants.

Obligation on Landlords

Given the high crime rate, landlords in Baltimore have a heightened obligation to provide security measures to protect their tenants and visitors. This obligation arises from the foreseeability of criminal acts and the duty of care that property owners owe to individuals on their premises.

Landlords are expected to implement reasonable security measures such as well-lit common areas, surveillance cameras, access control systems, security personnel, and proper maintenance of locks and doors. These measures are aimed at deterring criminal activities and enhancing the overall safety of the property.

Factors Impacting Negligent Security Lawsuits

Four factors play a significant role in the success or failure of negligent security lawsuits in Baltimore:

  1. Prior Knowledge: Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the landlord had actual or constructive knowledge of prior criminal activities on the premises. This could include incidents reported to law enforcement, complaints from tenants, or any security assessments that highlighted potential risks.
  2. Proximity to High-Crime Areas: Properties located in close proximity to areas with a history of high criminal activity may face greater scrutiny when it comes to their security measures. Plaintiffs may argue that the landlord should have been aware of the risks associated with the location.
  3. Adequacy of Security Measures: The effectiveness and appropriateness of the security measures implemented by the landlord will be a crucial factor. Plaintiffs may challenge the sufficiency of the measures taken, especially if they were inadequate in preventing the incident.
  4. Causation: Plaintiffs must establish a direct link between the landlord’s negligence and the harm suffered. This can be the hardest part which is why you need the best lawyers for a negligent security case.  Sure the lighting was bad, the defendants argue, but why did that cause this rape or murder?  It is essential to demonstrate that the lack of proper security measures directly contributed to the criminal act that caused the injury or loss.

Contact Us About Your Baltimore Negligent Security Lawsuit

If you have a negligent security lawsuit in Baltimore, call us.  Look at our awards. Look at our verdict and settlements.  Contact our personal injury attorneys today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation or contact us online.