phillips, hunt, walker & hanna Premises Liability / Negligent Security
My family watches the Voice. When I saw the news of Christina Grimmie’s death, I immediately could hear her voice in my head. The daylight brought all sorts of theories and people questioning the club’s security and police have recently released the name of her killer, Kevin Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Florida. We know a thing or two about that as lawyers who handle those cases all over the state. We have current cases in Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and south Florida. Given some of the misinformation, we wanted to explain the law in cases like this.
Property owners, business owners and operators in Florida have a general legal obligation to keep people on their premises safe. When they are negligent in providing basic security for the premises, they can be held liable if someone is injured or personal property has been stolen or damaged.
With this in mind, we address the tragic murder of Christina Grimmie and ask what considerations will determine if Orlando’s Plaza Live is liable. We also take a moment to express deepest condolences to her family, friends and fans.
Christina Grimmie was a “business invitee.” That means Plaza Live (and potentially the property owner) owed her an obligation to “correct or warn of dangers that the owner knew or should have known about by the use of reasonable care and which the visitor cannot or should not know of by the use of reasonable care, including to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition, including guarding against foreseeable third party crimes.” That’s the essential standard.
Several other factors could be relevant to determine liability:
phillips, hunt, walker & hanna I. Duty created by contract
Artists sometimes have contract riders. Any contracts between the performing artists, whether Ms. Grimme or the other band, Before You Exit, might reveal breaches or issues which would weigh on the club’s liability, such as whether security was addressed in the contract and whether it was required or even disclaimed or waived. All artists (and their management) should think about security before performing and add reasonable terms to its contracts. Most don’t. Their jobs is to show up and sing.
A rider requiring off-duty police officers, use of wands or magnetometers, or other considerations, particularly for fan interaction portions is not unheard of, but not common enough.
phillips, hunt, walker & hanna II. Duty created by notice of this particular potential incident
Was there a warning to the club, its promoters, bookers or management that there was a threat or potential threat? Did they receive strange messages on social media? Were there public threats?
Oftentimes, the individuals who cause these crimes are strangers or otherwise it is apart of broader criminal activity. However, here, there seems to have been a design by the killer upon this young victim. If that was communicated in any way, even a vague tweet to the club, and a club did not respond, that could create liability. People should take all threats seriously, as should police. We live in a world where the proliferation of social media has made us ignore what used to be taken seriously because of internet “trolls” and the like. Even I have had death and kidnapping threats ignored by police despite reports. It’s horrifying.
Police and lawyers alike often look at prior incidents or criminal activity, specifically at the subject location, as well as generally examine a “crime grid” surrounding the location. If a location has a history of criminal activity, its obligations increase.
This component is very broad and often requires due diligence of all to make sure businesses are operating safely and customers and performers choose to perform at safe businesses. Sometimes this is tough to avoid as young artists tend to play wherever they can gain exposure.
Some clubs are simply indifferent to the consequences of lax security. We do not kn
ow if that was the case here, although someone has already posted criticism on the club’s facebook page. Inadequate pat downs, insufficient security, lack of officers in number or training, failing to hire off-duty police when appropriate and the like are examples. We have seen some defendants egregiously engage in a conduct of profits over people.
Common security problems that premises owners must confront include the following:
- security company;
- marketing caused problems;
- gates, fences, and other barriers;
- deferred maintenance;
- overgrown landscaping;
- video surveillance; and
- trespass, vandalism, and loitering.
This was a tragedy. More information is needed. These considerations can be examined by a lawyer to determine if the family wants to take legal action. The tragedy will stem a lot of conversations, as usual, about mental illness, guns, security, fear and use of social media. We wrote another blog months ago that applies to considerations about hiring a lawyer and the investigation, but as people were weighing in on the club’s liability, we wanted to apply some of our information from other cases to this situation. Our prayers travel with them all.
We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards and what clients have to say about us and give us a call for a free consultation where our lawyers will consult with you personally. John represents clients all over Florida, Georgia and Alabama and before the U.S. Supreme Court with passion and compassion. Our firm handles a wide variety of injury and death cases, criminal defense, family law and a host of high profile matters all over. We can be emailed at email@example.com or call us at (904) 444-4444 and be there within 24 hours.