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The Law Print Page

Cameras Are Deterrents
by Ron Davis

An assault that occurred at a South Carolina shopping mall has concluded with a favorable outcome for the assault victim.

The shopping mall is Columbia Center, in Columbia, and the assault occurred in a corridor just outside the mall’s women’s restroom. The victim had left the main area of the center and entered a hallway that led to the restroom. That’s when a male intruder who had been lurking in the restroom area confronted her.

As a result of that confrontation and related assault, the victim sued the shopping mall’s owners and their security service.

That lawsuit triggered denials by the security firm. The South Carolina Supreme Court has, however, adopted a “balancing test” that determines whether a business owner has a duty to protect its customers. That court has decided, first, as to whether the crime was foreseeable and, second, given the foreseeability of the crime, the economically feasible security measures required to prevent such harm.

Explains the court, “The presence or absence of prior criminal incidents is a significant factor in determining the amount of security that is required by a business owner.” (Such a determination of security measures will generally be identified by an expert.)

The shopping mall’s owners admitted that no evaluation was ever made to determine past criminal incidents at the center. That meant that in relying on any evidence in forming an opinion, “the data provided that relates to the foreseeability of the attack are unverified and unreliable”.

However, noted the victim, “Nothing alters or changes the prior opinion that the secluded location of the attack with immediate egress to the outside of the building allows a perpetrator with an ideal environment to commit a crime.”

Another argument was that a monitored security camera in the hallway leading to the center restroom “would have been preferable and make it less likely that the attack would not have occurred”.

A final argument that was offered: “Had the hallway leading to the restrooms been equipped with proper closed-circuit television coverage that was clearly discernable by a potential perpetrator, it would be more likely that this crime would not have occurred.”

In conclusion, the courts disagreed with the argument by the security firm and denied the shopping mall’s owners appeal for contention.

(Laura B. Moise and Greg Moise v. Alliedbarton Security Services, LLC; Columbiana Center, LLC; and Growth Properties, Inc., Slip Copy, 2016 WL 319971).

Decision: January 2016
Published: February 2016



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