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Murder Unforseeable
by Ron Davis

A murder at a Los Angeles shopping center has shed some light on the amount of security and safeguards that center owners must provide their patrons.

The murder occurred at about 2 a.m. when an employee of a tenant at the shopping center intervened in an act of vandalism in the center’s parking lot. The vandals had just left the store where the employee worked, and he had gone to the parking lot after the store closed. But when he confronted the vandals, one of them pulled a knife and stabbed him.

The parents of the murder victim subsequently sued the shopping center’s owner, claiming that he failed to offer adequate security and maintain the premises in a safe condition.

The property manager of the shopping center noted, however, that she is unaware of any violent crimes occurring at the center prior to that murder. And at the time of the murder, the center nevertheless employed a security guard, who worked there from noon until 10 p.m., the normal business hours of the center.

The property manager admitted, however, that those hours of operation were “fictional” and that she made no attempt to control the opening and closing of the shopping center. Moreover, the parents of the murder victim contended that dispatch reports from the Los Angeles Police Department reflected “an excessive amount” of calls for police assistance to the shopping center.

The parents also argued that the time of the attack on their son was not outside the center’s normal business hours. That’s because, they said, the property manager did not enforce the hours that tenants could operate their businesses.

A California court rejected the arguments of the parents and ruled in favor of the shopping center’s owner. The parent appealed.

A California appellate court concurred with the lower court, explaining, “Nothing in the parents’ arguments…established the high degree of foreseeability necessary to require the shopping center to employ around-the-clock security guards. The evidence of a number of patrol calls to the location was properly excluded as inadmissible hearsay, but even if we were to consider the [police] logs, they simply do not establish any prior instances of the type of violent assault suffered in this case…. The parents presented no evidence of prior similar acts occurring at the shopping center at any hour of the day which would have rendered this murder foreseeable.” (Lee v. Hamp LLC, 2008 WL 4516094 [Cal.App. 2 Dist.])

Decision: October 2008
Published: November 2008



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