Calif. Supreme Court Addresses Issue of Responsibility of On-Premises Attacks

In two rulings last week in Delgado v. Trax Bar & Grill and Morris v. Silvino de la Torre, the California Supreme Court found that businesses and landowners can be held responsible for criminal assaults that take place on their property.

"Over the past decade, the Supreme Court has consistently narrowed landlords' and business owners' responsibility for criminal attacks on their property, so these opinions indicate a reversal of that trend, opening the door to prospective liability for criminal assaults on their property," said Robert Olson, a partner in a leading appellate boutique, Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland LLP who argued one of the last California Supreme Court rulings in the 20th century that dealt with an attack in an office building garage -- Sharon P. V Arman Ltd.

In Delgado, the Court held that the owner of a bar could be liable for a vicious attack on a patron in a parking lot. It found that while hiring security guards did not create a duty for a business owner to prevent criminal attacks on its property, if the guard subjectively recognized that a criminal assault was likely, the owner and the guard had to take reasonable steps to prevent the attack.

Morris involved a patron who was chased and attacked by gang members who had been hanging out in the business' parking lot. The Court held that the business owner owed a duty to the patron to call the police when its employees witnessed the attack.