The Texas Supreme Court ruled several years ago that premises owners cannot be held legally responsible for actions taken by criminals in their establishments when no warning was given and the violent acts committed were not foreseeable. Those who suffer injury at the hands of a criminal while visiting a store, hotel or other establishment can prevail in a premises liability lawsuit only when they can establish that the defendants knew about, or should have known about, the threat.
This long-standing legal doctrine is being challenged in the wake of a mass shooting incident at an El Paso Walmart store that claimed the lives of 22 people and left 24 others injured. Two people who suffered serious injuries in the shooting have filed a lawsuit that claims the big-box retailer acted negligently by not hiring and deploying armed security guards.
Walmart admits that it ended a policy of stationing off-duty police officers in its Texas stores several months before the shooting. The company says that the policy has since been reinstated. The attorney representing the two victims claims that the retailer should have done more to protect its customers, citing several recent violent incidents at Walmart locations including a hostage standoff at an Amarillo store and a shooting incident in Mississippi to back up the argument.
Personal injury attorneys may explain the duty of care that property owners or proprietors owe to their visitors and the evidence that could be used to establish that this duty was not met to individuals who are considering pursuing a premises liability lawsuit. Such evidence might include inadequate security measures, lax maintenance and a history of accidents that caused serious injury to visitors. Attorneys may also use this evidence to encourage property owners to avoid drawn-out legal battles by settling these matters at the negotiating table.