How shootings can turn building owners into legal targets

Families of victims often sue owners and managers of buildings where attacks occur

Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas and The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York (Credit: Getty)
Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas and The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York (Credit: Getty)

Owners and managers of commercial buildings are increasingly becoming legal targets after active-shooter incidents on their properties.

As cases related to shootings on commercial properties are litigated, new research indicates juries may find landlords and owners at least partly responsible if they do not have a plan or have offered training on what to do if an active shooter event occurs, Bisnow reports. Between 2000 and 2017, 280 active shooter incidents occurred and 45 percent took place on commercial property, according to The Institute for Real Estate Management.

Property owners were sued after many highly publicized mass shootings – including those at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; a video game competition in Jacksonville, Florida, and the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

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In most cases to date, plaintiffs have failed to convince civil juries that that the property owners were liable. But that could change as more of these lawsuits are filed and public expectations of the responsibilities of property owners evolve, said Christina Marinakis, director of jury research with Litigation Insights. Most jurors now regard property owners as negligent if they lack a safety plan in the event of a shooting, she explained.

Attorney Mark Lies, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw, said property owners have civil liability for a mass shooting on their premises if it was foreseeable. For example: if a building owner is aware of problems caused by an employee on the premises, an unhappy customer or a disgruntled spouse.

Building owners should have “some type of policy that if there is a report that a weapon has been brought into thee premises, that immediately the police are notified,” Lies said. [Bisnow] – Mike Seemuth