01 Mar Mall Violence and Liability

A husband and wife who were shot at Monroeville Mall in February have filed suit against the mall’s owners and the store where the shooting occurred. The couple claims that violence and gang activity at the mall just east of Pittsburgh had been increasing before they were shot and that the mall owners were negligent in failing to beef up security.

In December 2014, more than 1,000 teenagers showed up at Monroeville Mall, and several fights broke out among various groups. Across the country, these types of incidents seem to be becoming more common. Some people attribute the problem to gangs, and at least a few malls have begun restricting when teens can be on the premises. Mall owners who don’t increase security or attempt to curb teen violence could be at risk of being found liable if bystanders are injured during a crime or fight on mall property.

Coordinated Efforts

Malls are a draw for teens wanting to socialize with friends, so it’s not surprising that different social groups may occasionally run into each other. But large mall melees do not appear to be random events.

In Ocoee, Fla., 900 teens stormed a movie theater at West Oaks Mall on Valentine’s Day. About 200 made it inside the theater before employees locked the doors, and frightened patrons hid under theater seats. Police said teens had been planning the event for months, using social media. In Indianapolis, more than 200 teens were involved in a fight inside Castleton Square Mall – another event that teens talked about on social media before it started.

The company that owns Castleton Square Mall and dozens of other properties in the U.S. does not restrict access for minors. West Oaks Mall instituted a new policy following the Valentine’s Day mob, requiring teens under the age of 17 to be accompanied by an adult after 9 p.m. A growing number of malls, including the one in Monroeville, are doing the same, by either requiring youth to have an adult escort or banning them from being on the premises past a certain time.

Other Approaches

In retail environments, security has traditionally focused on preventing theft, not protecting shoppers from violence. Teen escort rules signify a shift in that thinking, as mall owners come to realize their obligation to mitigate violence on their properties. However, it may be a fallacy to assume that restricting teen access to malls will eliminate violence. Fights can occur any time of day and anywhere teens congregate, including mall parking lots.

In October, police responded to another incident at Monroeville Mall – this time, an 18-year-old flashed an air pellet gun and threatened one of the teens he was fighting with in the mall parking lot. In Newark, Del., an altercation between two groups of friends in the Christiana Mall parking lot ended with the stabbing of a 15-year-old girl. While it may be difficult to prevent these types of incidents, malls with more security officers – including parking lot patrols – could see a decrease in crime.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discusses in detail several methods for reducing teen violence, and a prevailing theme is that teens’ activities should be monitored. A lack of supervision and lack of guidance can create situations and attitudes that make violence more likely.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that you suffered an injury due to poor mall security, our attorneys can help. For almost 40 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 800-969-4400 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

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