As Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers, the J. Murphy Firm strides to stay updated on and writing about important legal topics affecting our community. I chose to write about the subject of the civil liability of shopping malls for parking lot attacks due to an attack at McCandless Crossing. These particular attacks appear to be the latest “craze” of the criminal class.

The Story

According to KDKA, eighteen-year-old Taylor Wible, of the Hill District, was arrested late Thursday night. McCandless Police said he beat a woman who was getting into her parked car outside of the Longhorn Steakhouse at McCandless Crossing. Police also said they found brass knuckles, a pair of black gloves, and a cell phone on the suspect.

Duty of Care

Premises liability lawyers, or “slip and fall” lawyers, deal with the legal duties owed by owners and occupiers of land to people coming onto that land. In the language of premises liability lawyers, owners, and occupiers of land are called “possessors.” The people coming onto the land are generally referred to as “entrants.” Business visitors are one type of entrant and are owed the highest duty of care of any entrant upon the land. In the context of a shopping mall, the customers are business visitors.

The duty owed to the business visitor is, “To inspect, repair, and make safe the premises from all known or knowable risks of harm to the business visitor.” The business visitor is owed this because they are presumably spending money.

Breach of Duty

The duty has not breached the instant a dangerous condition comes into existence. It is breached when the possessor knows of the condition and fails to take reasonable steps to protect invitees. It is also when the possessor fails to take reasonable steps to inspect the premises for the occurrence or development of dangerous conditions.

Of course, dangerous conditions can range from a puddle of water on the floor all the way up to the premises being infested with Legionnaires’ disease, biting rats, or parasitic insects. These are all the sorts of things that the possessor must make the premises safe against on behalf of business visitors.

Third parties that are neither the entrant nor the possessor can themselves be dangerous conditions. This is particularly when the possessor knows that the third party is on, or is coming on, the premises for the purpose of exacting nefarious intentions upon legitimate business visitors.

This particular case did not happen inside a business, but rather in the parking lot of one – the parking lot of the McCandless Crossing Shopping Center. The question becomes: “Did McCandless Crossing know, or should it have known that this person was on the premises, allegedly carrying an illegal weapon and intending to harm people?” The answer to that question will turn on multiple factors. Whether there was security for McCandless Crossing and whether that security was adequate for the job. Whether McCandless Crossing was aware of previous similar crimes on their property. And whether or not those crimes were reported to police.

Actual Notice

McCandless Crossing is now on actual notice that third parties are coming onto its premises to commit crimes against people in its parking lot(s). They may escape liability for Wible’s alleged crime but they may not be so lucky next time. I do hope that McCandless Crossing takes notice of, and action in regard to, this very serious threat. And the action must come sooner rather than later because neither the courts nor potential shoppers will have mercy on them if they do not.

If you’ve been the victim of a crime like this, please contact my team and I and we will help you as soon as possible.