Negligent security vs. adequate security: a Chicago case

Negligent security is both a disturbing real-world reality and a particular legal principle. At its core, it’s pretty simple: when a property owner or operator fails to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe from crime, liability can be imposed for injuries suffered by customers or tenants of the business due to criminal attacks.

To be sure, the general rule in the law is that a party is not responsible for the acts of a third party. But the legal principle of negligent security creates an important exception to this rule. Even though the actual injury was inflicted by a third party – someone who committed a crime – the principle of negligent security allows the injured person to hold the property owner or proprietor accountable.

A recent Chicago case provides an example of how this works. Earlier this month, after a basketball game between high school teams in Chicago, a fight broke out. The altercation moved into the parking lot, where a 17-year-old boy was shot dead.

The game was held at Chicago State University, so neither of the two teams involved was the home team. Chicago State had provided security to perform searches at the doors as fans entered the basketball arena. A video tape of the game apparently showed nothing especially amiss in terms of physical play on the court or unruly behavior by fans in the stands.

It is not difficult, however, to envision a situation where security was inadequate. What if the teams involved had a history of animosity and rough play – and fans or players were known to threaten their counterparts on the other team? If that were the case, a negligent security claim might well be in order if an attack occurred after the game.

Source: “HILLARY SMITH: Can safety remain pure in pure athletics,”, 1-20-13

Grazian & Volpe, Part of the Lloyd Miller Law Group