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Can Gang Violence Result In Premises Liability?

In what is surely one of the more unusual cases of negligence resulting in a lawsuit around the world, the case of a restaurant in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada is getting some attention. Most of the time when a place of business like a restaurant is sued for personal injury through negligence, the charge is related to the business itself. Food poisoning or poor maintenance of the building are the most common reasons a restaurant to be sued for personal injury, usually as a premises liability. A premises liability is when the owners and/or managers of a property have a basic legal responsibility to ensure the safety of visitors to that property.

So what happens if a bomb goes off? How is that negligence on the part of a property owner? That is a question occurring in Canada now, as customers of a restaurant move forward with a lawsuit relating to gangs, bombs, and negligence.

A Dangerous Place

In May of this year, in a Canadian city just west of Toronto, known as Mississauga, diners at the Bombay Bhel restaurant were the surprise victims of a bombing attack. Security footage accessed from the site later showed two people that appeared to be depositing a homemade bomb near the entrance of the restaurant before fleeing the scene.

The survivors of the bombing are now suing the restaurant and its parent corporation for the Canadian equivalent of premises liability resulting in negligence and injury. The argument being moved forward by the attorneys, in this case, is that the bombing was the result of a “rival business” that was trying to hurt its competition through any means necessary. The argument now is that the Bombay Bhel restaurant was aware of the threat, aware of the risk in security and the potential danger it was exposing diners to, but ignored all this in favor of continuing to operate. In other words, there was a “turf war” going on between rival factions, but the restaurant, the lawsuit argues, decided to ignore the risks that their operation exposed customers to.

Normal Premises Liability

The interesting aspect of this particular lawsuit in Canada is the interpretation of premises liability being taken here. Under ordinary circumstances, premises liability is really just about risks or threats that inherent to the property itself. If a puddle on the floor makes the walking surface slippery, greatly increasing the risk of a slip and fall that could result in injury, that’s a risk within the property itself. Similarly, a homeowner that leaves a firearm loaded and sitting on a coffee table when children visit, or has an aggressive guard dog but allows children to play with the animal without warning is also creating—and ignoring—a risk within the property.

So how this lawsuit, claiming that a general risk of a turf-war declared on the property transferred that danger to visitors, is going to be an interesting twist on negligence. Depending on how the verdict goes, this could create interesting new precedents for the possibility of gang violence and what responsibilities a property owner or manager has in relation to it.

Michael J. Babboni's wide-ranging legal career is based on the strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and have access to effective legal help. Michael began putting his beliefs in action by helping the people of St. Petersburg Florida get what they are owed in civil trials fighting to protect families by making corporations pay, and honor their obligations.

Can Gang Violence Result In Premises Liability?

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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