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Mike Damaso
Mike Damaso
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Reasonable Precautions to Prevent Criminal Attacks Required in Florida

2 comments
Downtown Disney House of Blues

House of Blues by Paul Hudson

On July 16, 2015, a woman was found naked in the bushes behind the House of Blues at Downtown Disney. The Orange County Sherriff office suspects that the woman is a victim of a rape. According to reports, Disney security guards found the woman in the Disney’s Westside Promenade at around 5a.m. The woman was disoriented and a used condom was found next to her body. The unidentified victim remembers going to the House of Blues with a friend but does not remember being separated from her friend, leaving the House of Blues, or the man who sexually assaulted her.

Downtown Disney Rape Suspect

Downtown Disney Rape Suspect

Although Disney has refused to comment on the situation, they may be held responsible for failing to provide adequate security to prevent criminal acts of this sort. Under Florida law, when a property owner invites the public onto his property in order to make a profit, the property owner must make sure that the property is safe. In particular, a duty exists to take reasonable and necessary precautions to protect guest from criminal attacks, which were reasonably foreseeable. Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So.2d 761 (Fla. 1984). The attorneys at Wooten Kimbrough, P.A. have extensive experience handling cases where a company fails to provide appropriate security to prevent heinous acts such as this. The Orange County Sherriff Office has released a surveillance photo of a potential suspect and urge anyone who has information to contact CrimeLine.

2 Comments

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  1. Ron Adams says:
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    Jumping to conclusions here calling it rape, aren’t you? The suspect was arrested and charged with “Sexual Battery”.

    I’m curious too, what is the standard for making a property “safe” for the public. What is the legal statute?

    • Mike Damaso says:
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      Ron Adams, you are correct… Everyone is innocent until proven, or pled, guilty in U.S. criminal courts.

      As far as the standard for keeping the premises safe:

      When a property owner invites the public onto his property in order to make a profit, the property owner must make sure that the property is safe. In particular, a duty exists to take reasonable and necessary precautions to protect guests from criminal attacks which were reasonably foreseeable. Hall v. Billy Jack’s, Inc., 458 So. 2d 761 (Fla. 1984). Although negligence may be apportioned in many civil cases, a party who negligently fails to provide reasonable security measures cannot use an intervening intentional criminal act to reduce its own liability, when the security measures or lack thereof, are supposed to protect against the act in the first place. Hennis v. City Tropics Bistro, Inc., 1 So.3d 1152, 1155 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009); citing Merrill Crossings Associates v. McDonald, 705 So. 2d, 560, 563 (Fla. 1997). Thus, a property owner, business, or premises occupier cannot get out of taking its proper and fair share of responsibility by blaming the attacker.

      Past crimes on the property, even those that are less serious in nature, establish notice and foreseeability in a case against a party potentially liable for negligent security. Mulhearn v. K-Mart Corp., 2006 WL 2460664 (M.D. Fla. 2006); citing Hardy v. Pier 99 Motor Inn, 664 So. 2d 1095, 1098 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995).

      The cost of security cameras and/or security personnel would alleviate this problem and would certainly outweigh the repercussions of ignoring the dangerous situations that this lack of care poses. Further, as with any reasonable business owner, the amount and type of precautions to be taken to keep the public safe, depend on the amount of criminal activity. The greater the criminal activity, the greater the precautions that must be taken.

      Furthermore, inadequacy of security can also contribute to the foreseeability of harm to customers, especially when prior incidents have occurred. Foster v. Po Folks, Inc., 674 So. 2d 843, 846 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996). Many property owners in a situation like this could install security cameras in order to deter and monitor criminal activity. Having security personnel patrol, especially at night, is also a reasonable option. Another option is extra lighting for better visibility. This lighting would be effective not just for where the attack occurred but also to deter the criminals from just “hanging out” in other areas. This is not an exhaustive list, but in the absence of reasonable security measures, individual guests become susceptible to criminal attacks.