$575,000 Negligent Security Settlement for Man Who Was Attacked at Fast Food Restaurant
A 44 year old first aid volunteer accepted $575,000 to settle a negligent security case against a fast food restaurant in Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey. On the day of the incident the plaintiff had been eating lunch with his mother and sister at a fast food restaurant. The restaurant had been known as a “hang out” for rowdy teenagers regularly associated with drugs, gang activity and violence. During the lunch, the teenagers had been acting up and using profanity in the restaurant. Management did nothing and the plaintiff asked them to calm down as he was with his elderly grandmother. Moments later the teenagers went outside the restaurant. Minutes after that the plaintiff left with his mother and sister and was stabbed in the eye with a filet knife by one of the youths while he was walking arm in arm with his mother coming out of the restaurant.
Under New Jersey business owners and landlords have a duty to protect patrons and tenants from foreseeable criminal acts of third parties. Clohesy v. Food Circus Supermarkets, Inc., 149 N.J. 496, 500, 516-17 (1997) (supermarket liable in negligent security for customer’s murder after her abduction from parking lot); Butler v. Acme Mkts., Inc., 89 N.J. 270, 274 (1982) (supermarket liable to customer who was mugged in the parking lot); Trentacost v. Brussel, 82 N.J. 214, 231-32 (1980) (imposing liability on the landlord for failure to “take reasonable security measures for tenant protection on the premises”); Braitman v. Overlook Terrace Corp., 68 N.J. 368, 371-72, 382-83 (1975) (holding landlord could be liable for burglary of tenant’s apartment because the landlord had breached duty of care by failing to provide functioning deadbolt lock).
When a landlord knows or should know of a pattern of criminal activity on his premises that poses a foreseeable risk of harm to his tenants and their guests and does not take reasonable steps to meet the danger, he cannot escape liability merely because the criminal act was committed by a third party who was not within his control. See Trentacost, 82 N.J. at 222; see also Taneian v. Meghrigian, 15 N.J. 267 (1954) at 281 (describing landlord’s duty of reasonable care to protect tenants and their social guests against dangers in common areas); Scully v. Fitzgerald, 179 N.J. 114 (2004) (holding that landlord owes duty “to take reasonable steps to curtail the dangerous activities” on-premises “of which he should be aware and that pose a hazard to the life and property of other tenants”); Williams v. Gorman, 214 N.J.Super. 517, 523 (App.Div.1986) (asserting that landlord has duty to protect tenant from other tenant’s foreseeable criminal acts), cert. denied, 107 N.J. 111 (1987).
After a long-fought litigation, Gerald Clark achieved a $575,000 settlement against the restaurant which was paid by its insurance company.