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Illinois business may be liable for avoidable premises' injuries

When DuPage and Will County businesses take a hands-off to on-site third-party violence, the establishments are at risk for liability lawsuits. A jury may be convinced that a business's knowledge of possible harm and inadequate security measures are enough to warrant damages.

Premises liability laws concern the safety of people who visit your home or business by invitation, by expectation or to trespass. The "duty of care" a property owner must show depends on a visitor's status. The safety of a guest holds a higher priority than the care due an expected, but uninvited, visitor. Few safety requirements must be met for people who trespass upon your property.

Most Illinois business owners know a visitor's injury or death caused by an on-site safety hazard can generate a liability claim. What companies frequently fail to realize is that harm inflicted by one visitor upon another may also create a legal backlash for the business.

Restaurant chain Denny's lost a federal case over an incident like this. A female customer was assaulted in a Denny's restaurant by customers the victim asked to stop being loud. The offended and later injured woman initially asked Denny's employees to handle the noise problem, which restaurant workers apparently ignored.

An appeals court refused to share the restaurant's opinion that the woman brought on the attack by confronting the loud customers. The court cleared the way for a liability lawsuit by declaring Denny's was aware violence was possible, based on the customers' exchange and past incidents at the restaurant.

Denny's employees were blamed for not protecting the woman. The victim was favored because the business dismissed "foreseeable" violence.

Injured victims are entitled to claim negligence against a business, whether or not harm is caused directly by a company. An unsafe premises includes on-site hazards, poor security and the depth of a property owner's knowledge about possible danger.

Source:, "When Is a Business Liable for Outsider Violence on Its Premises?" Brad Reid, Sep. 13, 2013

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