Police in Chula Vista arrested armed robber Richard Bareano after he was involved in a bank robbery in El Cajon earlier in July. Witnesses reported that during the robbery of California Coast Credit Union, Bareano fired a shot before escaping with cash stolen from behind the teller counter.
Can you sue the bank if you are injured during an armed robbery?
Although in this particular case no one was injured in the course of the robbery, it is not uncommon for innocent bystanders to suffer injury or death during the course of a serious and violent crime. Under California law, if you are injured because of the criminal act of a third party while occupying business premises, the business owner may be liable under premises liability. This is because the proprietor of a business is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to secure its patrons against harm caused by foreseeable third party crimes.
The business owner fulfills this duty if they take precautionary measures against the foreseeable crime, such as employing security guards at entrances, although California courts have ruled that there is no general requirement to employ security guards in all cases.
When is a crime foreseeable?
Whether a particular crime committed in a particular location can be said to be foreseeable is often a matter of legal argument at trial. The Supreme Court of California has ruled that in order for a particular crime to be foreseeable, there must be a history of similar violent crimes taking place on the premises. Furthermore, if a particular crime is especially foreseeable, the law imposes a heightened duty on the business owner to take extra precautions against harm to its patrons.