With the increase in litigation against businesses and individuals arising from the criminal acts of third parties on private property, the state of Missouri has looked to address what was previously a patchwork of case law relating to these claims and codify those standards into state law in order to provide some certainty for businesses in this area of the law. This has given rise to the Business Premises Safety Act.
On July 5, 2018, the Governor of Missouri signed Senate Bill 608, known as The Business Premises Safety Act, R.S.Mo. § 537.787, into law and it thereafter went into effect on August 28, 2018. This has significantly changed the way the Courts in Missouri now analyze personal injury and wrongful death cases arising from criminal conduct occurring on private property by providing distinct guidance about when a Missouri business can be held responsible for crimes committed on its premises.
Under this law, a business does not have a duty to guard against criminal or harmful acts on its premises unless the business knows or has reason to know that such acts are being committed or are reasonably likely to be committed in a particular area of a premises and sufficient time exists to prevent such crime or injury. In the absence of a duty, no business shall be liable for civil damages by any person in connection with criminal acts committed by a third-party.
If a duty is found to exist (i.e. if the Plaintiff shows that the business knew or had reason to know that such acts were being or were reasonably likely to be committed and had time to prevent it), then the business can raise the following affirmative defenses to the claims:
- The business has implemented reasonable security measures;
- The person on the premises who was injured was:
- A trespasser;
- Attempting to commit a felony; or
- Engaged in the commission of a felony.
- The criminal or harmful act occurred while the business was closed to the public.
One of the key aspects of these affirmative defenses will be the determination as to what ultimately constitutes “reasonable security measures.” Recognizing that, the Statue specifically defines reasonable security measures as being “those precautions that a reasonable business owner in such industry would implement in a particular area of the premises to guard against criminal acts or harmful acts based on the condition of the premises and the cost of implementing such precautions.”
The Statute also specifically excludes any evidence of subsequent remedial measures. In fact, it provides that subsequent action taken by the business to provide protection to persons on the premises shall not be admissible to show negligence or establish the feasibility of any security measures.
This Business Premises Safety Act is a positive development for the state of Missouri as it clarifies and strengthens protections for businesses against claims for damages arising from third-party criminal activity which, by its very nature, is oftentimes unforeseeable, unpredictable, and simply not preventable.