Can a property owner be liable for the criminal activities of others on the property in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Aug 09, 2018 | 0 Comments

Yes, in some cases. Whether a Nevada property owner can be held civilly liable for other people's crimes committed on their property is a hot topic now in light of the October 1 mass shooting at the Mandalay Bay. MGM (which owns Mandalay Bay) is facing numerous lawsuits from victims alleging that the MGM violated Nevada negligence laws in preventing and mitigating the shooting; meanwhile, MGM claims it bears no responsibility because it hired a security service for the event that was DHS-approved for protecting against acts of mass injury.

Duty of care property owners owe guests

Property owners have a duty to take all reasonable measures to safeguard its premises from all foreseeable dangers. The recent Nevada Supreme Court case Humphries v. New York, New York takes a broad view of foreseeability:

[A] wrongful act is not foreseeable unless the owner or innkeeper failed to exercise due care for the safety of the patron...or had notice or knowledge of prior incidents of similar wrongful acts on the premises ... Foreseeability based on the failure to exercise due care does not depend solely on notice or knowledge that a specific wrongful act would occur, but instead is about "the basic minimum precautions that are reasonably expected of an owner or innkeeper." ... And foreseeability based on notice or knowledge of "[p]rior incidents of similar wrongful acts," ... requires a case-by-case analysis of similar wrongful acts, including, without limitation, the level of violence, location of attack, and security concerns implicated.

In sum, plaintiffs (crime victims) need not prove that a property owner foresaw a specific person committing a specific crime on the property. Plaintiffs do not even have to show that similar crimes occurred earlier on the property. Instead, under Humphries, plaintiffs have to show that a similar crime occurred somewhere, and that it should have put the property owner on notice to attempt to stop it.

For example, if a hotel is in an area with a high incidence of drug deals and burglaries, the owner is "on notice" that hotel guests may be in danger. Therefore, the owner arguably has a duty to hire extra security, put bars on windows, and take any other reasonable precautions to protect its guests from all foreseeable burglaries and drug-related violence. If the owner does not take these reasonable precautions and then guests get injured, the hotel may be civilly liable for negligence under the Nevada theory of premises liabiltiy.

The "totality of the circumstances"

Nevada courts take a "totality of the circumstances" approach when deciding whether a property owner is negligent for laws broken on its premises. Just some of the "circumstances" that courts consider include:

  • location of the property
  • time of the crime
  • type of crime
  • current events
  • what the property owners knew (or should have known)

In short, the unique facts of each case determine whether a particular crime was foreseeable, and whether the property owner should be held liable. So in order to prevail in a negligence lawsuit, crime victims who get injured on someone else's property would need to show that the crime was foreseeable and that the property owner did not take enough (if any) precautionary measures to prevent it.

Legal References:

  1. Humphries v. New York, New York, 133 Nev. Adv. Op. 77 (Oct. 5, 2017)
  2. Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp. 864 P.2d 796 (Nev. 1993)

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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