Virginia Premises Liability Law Extends Legal Help to Crime or Assault Victims Involving Third Party on Landlord or Business Owner Property

By Jeffrey J. Downey, premises liability attorney serving Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC

With the Covid-19 pandemic there has been a considerable increase in violent crime.  Under premises liability law, a landlord or property owner may be held liable for the crimes of third parties where their conduct was foreseeable.   In Virginia, unless a special relationship exists, there is generally no duty to protect someone from the crimes of a third party.  However, where a person has assumed the safety of an individual, or it is foreseeable that harm may occur, there is a duty to prevent physical harm.

In Gupton v. Quicke, 247 Va. 362 (1994), the plaintiff brought a claim against a café owner because he was attacked by a patron.  The patron had threatened plaintiff during an argument in the café and was escorted out.  However, the patron was then allowed to reenter, at which point he attacked the Plaintiff.  Under these facts the Supreme Court found that the café owner had a duty to protect his other patrol.

This case is illustrative of Virginia law that requires the criminal act of a third-party to be foreseeable before it will give rise to liability against the owner/operator for its failure to protect people from crime.

I have handled numerous premises liability cases in my 30 years as a trial attorney.  For additional information, visit this link which summarizes some of the important cases in this area.

There are some common sense things that one can do to avoid harm:

  • Avoiding unfamiliar areas that are unlit or are located in high-crime areas
  • Take a friend or dog with you if you have to walk somewhere in the evening
  • Avoid ATMs that are not located in well-lit and traveled areas
  • Have your phone with you and let people know where you are going
  • Avoid contentious discussions with strangers
  • For neighborhoods, ban together to start a crime watch group
  • Use alarms and motion sensors on your property
  • If you see something suspicious take a video and make a police report

The Virginia State Police offers these safety tips and numerous others in order for people improve their situational awareness.

In addition, I’ve provide several other national resources to consider if you were a victim of a crime.

If you are or have been injured on a commercial property, contact the Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, P.C., and we can outline your rights for seeking damages and justice for a possible a premises liability lawsuit.

Contact Information:

The Law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey
8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810
McLean, VA 22102
Phone: 703-564-7318 or 703-564-7357
Fax: 703-883-0108