In a recent decision by the Rhode Island Superior Court, a judge determined that a wrongful death action brought on behalf of a bank customer, who was robbed and murdered in the bank’s parking lot, could proceed to trial. The family of the murdered victim argued the bank owed a duty of care to its customers to keep them reasonably safe, and that the bank breached this duty by failing to provide adequate security at the branch, which had been previously robbed.

In his decision, the judge stated the key issue was whether it was foreseeable, taking into consideration prior crimes, location, nature, and condition of the property, that a crime such as the robbery and murder would occur at the branch. The court determined that the issue of whether or not the robbery and murder was foreseeable constituted a factual question, and that both parties had submitted sufficient evidence to proceed to a trial so that a jury could determine this issue. The court stated that it would be up to a jury to decide if the murder was foreseeable and, if it was foreseeable, whether the security measures in place at the time of the murder were insufficient to adequately protect customers.

This decision highlights that landowners must exercise reasonable care with regard to the safety of all people on their premises. The extent of this obligation often involves an analysis of how foreseeable the harm was to the injured party. Accordingly, landowners and businesses should continually re-evaluate their safety and security measures to ensure that they provide adequate protections for potential harms that could occur on their properties. Adequate safety and security measures are important factors in the determination of whether a property owner satisfied its obligation to people expected to be on their property.

If you have questions or would like to speak to Attorney Patrick J. McBurney, please call 401-824-5100 or email him at [email protected]. We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions.

In a recent decision by the Rhode Island Superior Court, a judge determined that a wrongful death action brought on behalf of a bank customer, who was robbed and murdered in the bank’s parking lot, could proceed to trial. The family of the murdered victim argued the bank owed a duty of care to its customers to keep them reasonably safe, and that the bank breached this duty by failing to provide adequate security at the branch, which had been previously robbed.