Picture this: you are a property owner in Las Vegas, either managing a set of rental spaces or operating one of the largest casinos in the city. One day, you receive a knock on your door and are surprised by the appearance of police officers looking for you. Only then are you notified that one of your locations is the scene of a crime in Las Vegas and you are being charged for negligence in relation to it.
There are many instances where the owner of a property where someone perpetrated a crime can be held equally responsible for it. There are certain instances that must be met before the plaintiff can file said charges, however. Let’s look at how a property owner can be charged in relation to a crime in Las Vegas.
An Owner’s Duty
In any jurisdiction, a property owner is mandated to provide not just the highest level of service to clients, but to ensure that guests are protected from all forms of foreseeable danger. This includes basic measures like child-proofing items or following basic safety protocols for stairs and elevators. In light of the pandemic, the owner is also responsible for enforcing health rules to mitigate the spread of the virus.
One of the most prominent examples that highlights this duty is the case of Humphries v. New York-New York Hotel and Casino (2017). In this case, the plaintiffs suffered severe physical injuries after getting into an altercation with another patron. They sought damages against the casino, but the courts cleared the casino of wrongdoing because the plaintiffs failed to take all the circumstances of their situation into consideration.
How the Law Interprets the Owner’s Duty
To better understand the Humphries case, one must know of NRS 651.015. It is the rule that determines whether or not a property owner is civilly liable to a plaintiff’s damages. The owner can be equally liable to the plaintiff even if they are not directly connected to the perpetrator if:
- the danger was foreseeable
- the owner or their staff failed to address any possible risks on their property
- prior acts have happened on the premises and the owner took no action to address the risks
- similar acts have happened in related or nearby premises and the owner failed to take prompt action to address a possible risk
In the case of the casino, similar acts have happened on the premises prior to the one in the complaint. As such, the owners have a duty to ensure that no such acts should happen again, or at the very least make attempts to minimize the chances. This failure to act is related to point three. In addition, on-site security did not immediately move to prevent the altercation. That violates points one and two, as the guards could have diffused the situation before it blew up.
The Totality Clause
Originally, the Humphries case ended in favor of the hotel because the judge ruled that the owners could not foresee the fight that led to the injuries. However, a higher Nevada court overturned the original verdict because the original judgment did not take the totality of the case into account. That is, the original hearing failed to address all the circumstances that are related to the case, invalidating their verdict.
When a plaintiff tries to file a civil case against a property owner, there are at least a few things to consider:
- the location of the premises where the crime occured
- the time that the crime took place
- the type of crime perpetrated
- the owners’ knowledge about their property
- recent or related events that have occured in the area
Nevada courts look into all these factors together to determine guilt of negligence. Plaintiffs can secure a win, however, if they can prove that the type of crime was easily foreseeable and the owners failed to act even with prior knowledge of related acts in their area or the premises themselves. The defense will need to focus on these two points if they want to avoid a conviction.
Property owners should not disregard civil lawsuits regarding crimes committed in the properties they own or manage. Not only will it affect them financially, it will also tarnish their reputation, making them less trustworthy to the community and patrons both. Seek out the help of a veteran Las Vegas defense lawyer to represent you in such difficult cases.