Liability In Mass Shootings and Terroristic Acts

Liability In Mass Shootings and Terroristic Acts

In Wake of Recent Mass Shooting Incidents Businesses, Event Promoters Rushing to Purchase Special Liability Insurance

This Sunday morning, a mass shooting occurred at a church in White Settlement, Texas. According to early reports carried in the online edition of the Dallas Morning News, two churchgoers have been killed and one has been transported in critical condition to a local hospital. The shooting comes at the end of a year that saw:

  • 22 killed and 24 injured at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, TX
  • 12 killed and 4 injured in a municipal building in Virginia Beach, VA.
  • 9 dead and 17 injured outside a bar in Dayton, OH

In today’s post the mass shooting and domestic terrorism lawyer at The Doan Law Firm reviews some of the legal issues that may arise in connection with mass shooting/domestic terrorism incidents as well as provide a general answer to the question of who could potentially held liable following such tragedies.

Legal issues in mass shootings and domestic terrorism

It is a well-established principle of law that the owner of a property is responsible for reducing, so far as is possible, the possibility that a visitor to that property will suffer an injury. This is known as premises liability and this doctrine applies to both private and public (taxpayer-funded) locations. Thus, it doesn’t matter if you slip on a wet floor at city hall or at your neighborhood Burger King: the fact that you slipped and fell is usually all that is needed to prove negligence on the part of the premises owner. This is the reason that practically all homeowners, businesses and government agencies carry liability insurance in case an injury occurs. But what if an individual, or a group, commits an act of violence against others who are present: is the premises owner still liable even though they had no reason to suspect that an attack would occur?

Although the question of liability following a mass shooting/domestic terrorism incident has yet to be fully addressed by the courts, the fact that such incidents have occurred in the past should have prompted businesses (particularly large nationwide operations) to have emergency evacuation plans in place should such an incident occur. As an example, many schools now have “shelter in place” protocols that are activated on the suspicion of danger to their students and such procedures are rehearsed in the same manner as fire drills. Another indication that businesses are afraid that they could be held liable is the emergence of special liability insurance policies that “pay out” in the event of a mass shooting or similar incident.

A recent report by A.M. Best, “Insurers Create New Types of Coverage For Mass Shooting Attacks,” the nation’s premier insurance industry financial monitoring company, reviewed the types of liability insurance policies now being marketed to businesses and event/concert promoters whose venues may be at risk for mass shootings or other terroristic acts. These policies, some of which provide up to $100 million in coverage, require that businesses take certain “risk management” precautions as a condition of liability insurance coverage such as:

  • Creating an emergency action plan that includes provisions such as premises evacuation routes and procedures as well as requiring that all full- and part-time employees receive training in these plans.
  • Training of employees in the recognition of those customers whose behavior patterns indicate a risk of violent behavior, such as threat-making.
  • Establishing procedures for handling terminated or disgruntled employees, a group that represents a significant number of assailants in mass shooting incidents.
  • Discontinuing the sale of firearms and ammunition.

Given the apparently-increasing incidence of workplace violence, mass shootings and acts of domestic terrorism, it is difficult to understand why any business, school, or government does not already have an emergency response plan in place. From a legal point of view, we believe that any business that does not have such plans could be found liable for negligence if its customers were injured in such a mass shooting or domestic terrorism event, as follows:

  1. Mass shootings and acts of domestic terrorism have occurred in the past and can be reasonably expected to occur in the future.
  2. Many of these acts occur in public areas such as retail stores or entertainment venues.
  3. Given that such incidents can be reasonably expected to continue in the future, it is reasonable that plans should be in place should such an incident occur.
  4. In the presence of such a potential threat of violence, willful failure to implement such plans could be seen as an act of negligence.
  5. The owner of the location where an injury occurs could therefore be held liable for that act of negligence.

Contacting a mass shooting/domestic terrorism injury lawyer

As we mentioned earlier, the issue of liability following a mass shooting/domestic terrorism incident has yet to make its way through the courts. This does not mean, however, that you cannot file a lawsuit if you or a family member were injured during one of these senseless acts.

If you, or a family member, have been injured in a mass shooting/domestic terrorism incident, we invite you to contact the mass shooting/domestic terrorism injury lawyer at The  Doan Law Firm, a national personal injury law practice with offices located throughout the country.

When you contact our firm, your case review and first consultation with our legal staff are always free and do obligate you in any way to hiring our firm as your legal counsel. Should you later decide that a lawsuit is in order, and that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.