Many people are aware that a landowner can be held liable for failing to take appropriate care and caution when ensuring that his or her property is safe for guests. This includes things like ensuring stairs are functional, electrical outlets are in good working condition, and that balconies are supported properly. Fewer people are aware, however, that a landowner can in some circumstances be held liable when a third party commits a tortious act such as an assault against a guest on his or her property. At Therman Law Offices, our Chicago premises liability attorneys are proud to serve victims of these crimes.
In a recent claim, the plaintiff was the surviving wife of a man who was stabbed in the neck and killed while eating at a restaurant and lounge in Chicago. In the wrongful death action, the wife alleged that the restaurant failed to provide adequate security at the restaurant resulting in her husband’s untimely death. In response to the complaint, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. It alleged that judgment in its favor was appropriate because it did not have a legal duty to prevent the decedent from being murdered in the restaurant. The lower court ultimately granted the motion finding that there was no evidence offered to show that the altercation was foreseeable.
The plaintiff appealed. On review, the court reiterated the rule that a landowner’s duty to protect guests from attacks from third parties only extends to situations where an attack would be foreseeable. If the landowner has no reason to know that a criminal act is foreseeable, then the landowner does not have a duty to protect patrons. In assessing whether an injury was foreseeable, the court must consider the likelihood of an injury stemming from a third-party attack, the magnitude of imposing a burden to guard against the injury on the landowner, and the consequences of placing that burden on the landowner.