Ask the legal expert ... about liability for violent crimes

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Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP

With some of the violent outsider crimes committed at nursing homes lately, what should we do to legally protect ourselves?

It can be difficult to completely insulate your facility from all liability for all acts that take place on your premises, even third-party criminal acts. You first need to know the law in your state on premises liability, which  is grounded in negligence. 

The basic idea behind premises liability is that a property owner must owe a duty to the person injured, the duty must be breached, and the failure to adhere to the duty must be the proximate cause of the injury. Whether the duty to protect another depends upon whether the act complained of was foreseeable and whether the property owner took reasonable care to protect one from injury. 

Under this rubric, it would seem that a facility should not be liable for criminal acts committed by third-parties on the premises. That is generally true.

However, in some instances, a property owner may be obligated to protect against risks. A criminal act may arguably be foreseeable by a nursing facility if a violent family member has previously threatened staff or other residents and is allowed continued access to the property. Another example is if there has been a rash of burglaries. Plus, a property owner providing security to those on the premises may be liable if those security measures are carried out negligently. 

Consider supplying security at your facility and outsourcing security services to a third-party. If you contract with a third-party security firm, the contract should have an indemnification clause that holds the nursing home harmless for liabilities associated with carrying out their duties. 


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