Skip to content

iStock image

Companies Increasingly Being Held Liable for Domestic Violence Incidents

Ten years ago, most liability attorneys would have shied away from a civil claim involving an incident that arose from domestic violence. They were seen as entirely personal, encapsulated in a bubble created by a relationship between two people and impossible to prevent.

But, “the times are changing in these cases,” said Michael Haggard at the Future Plays Theater at GSX 2021 on Monday, 27 September 2021.

Tragic incidents that were once considered crimes of passion are no longer thought of as the consequences of solely personal grievances. Now, apartment complexes, shopping malls, restaurants, bars—effectively, any place of business—can be liable for harm or damages resulting from a domestic violence dispute.

During his talk, “Increasing Trend of Liability in Domestic Violence Crimes,” Haggard noted that within the courts there is a greater interest in preventing such incidents and establishing that this kind of violence could have been prevented. Because once a domestic attack happens on a business property, it becomes an issue for the business—meaning that “it’s just a domestic” is no longer a viable excuse.

Domestic violence is not only on the rise, but also increasingly connected to workplace violence, with more attacks linked to a personal or domestic dispute.

"There can be no argument that domestic violence is apart of our crime prevention fabric now," Haggard says.

It should come as little surprise that when suits concerning a domestic violence attack reach the courts, there is an increasing focusing on who is in control of a property or facility.

The three aspects a jury will consider include what kind of security was present where the attack occurred, if that level of security was sufficient (did it meet certain standards), and whether the attack could have been reasonably deterred.

Even in instances involving residential properties, the property management company could be held accountable. Haggard pulled from his previous cases to highlight incidents where, in a rush to begin leasing units to renters, security for the building or community suffered. While such communities promised secure access control, the reality featured main doors or security gates left wide open, lax guard training or insufficient tools for patrols, and doors to residences that offered little prevention against determined and disgruntled attackers.

Training is another crucial component in potentially mitigating or altogether deterring domestic violence in public, common, or private spaces. Whether it is site staff, managers, or guards, businesses need to ensure that the training they provide meets industry standards and is administered prior to employees or third-party contractors starting the job.

Haggard also cautioned that businesses should be aware of any crimes that occur on the premises, since failing to react to or improve security practices could emphasize a history of negligence—an aspect unlikely to endear them to a judge or jury.

Sara Mosqueda is assistant editor at Security Management, the parent publication of the GSX Daily. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @Ximenawrites.