The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld a jury award of $3.25 million in favor of a woman shot in a parking lot where she worked. The lawsuit was against Owner-Operator Services, Inc., where the victim was working as a truck insurance agent support specialist. One evening, she was shot by her ex-partner in the company’s parking lot.
She filed a lawsuit against the company alleging negligence in failing to protect her. At trial, she introduced evidence that she was having problems with her ex-partner, such as stalking and sexual assault, and the company’s director of human resources knew about it. The victim told the director that the partner was leaving her harassing voicemails and that she felt fearful about him. The lawsuit alleged that although the company had security cameras and police patrols available, it did not take necessary measures to ensure the victim’s protection. After considering the evidence, the jury awarded her $3.25 million in damages.
Under Missouri law, a business owner generally has no duty to protect business invitees from criminal acts of unknown third parties because they are rarely foreseeable. However, there are a few exceptions. The first is when a person, known to be violent, is on the premises. Another exception is when a person is on the premises and “has conducted himself so as to indicate danger and sufficient time exists to prevent the injury.” The next exception states a business owner has a duty to protect invitees from criminal attacks of others under “special circumstances,” which means when it is foreseeable that certain actions or omissions will cause harm or injury to the invitee.