A number of high profile negligent security cases have been filed in the Philadelphia courts in recent weeks. In one case, a deceased victim’s estate is suing McDonald’s in connection with a fatal stabbing in a McDonald’s parking lot in North Philadelphia. In another, the well-known Philly cheesesteak shop, Pat’s King of Steaks, is being sued after a customer was shot by another customer outside the South Philly shop.
Businesses and property owners in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and across the U.S. should take note. Injured victims and their families are taking action to hold businesses and property owners responsible for failing to make their premises safe for guests and customers.
These sound like criminal cases: Is negligent security a civil or criminal claim?
Negligent security is a civil claim. It allows a victim of a crime to bring a civil action for compensation against the owner or manager of the property where the crime occurred. It is not criminal, although the incident involves a criminal case too. In the criminal case, the defendant is usually the victim’s attacker. In the civil negligent security claim, the defendant is the person responsible for the property where the attack took place. If a criminal case is successful, the defendant is given a fine, prison sentence, or other punishment. When a civil claim is successful, the victim is usually awarded financial compensation. A civil claim also has a lower legal burden of proof than a criminal case so you may have a better chance of a successful outcome in a civil action than a criminal one.
Who was attacked at Pat’s and McDonald’s?
A negligent security claim was filed against McDonald’s (and others) in relation to a fatal stabbing in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in North Philadelphia two years ago. The victim, Matthew Maguire, a 30 year old father of two, was in the McDonald’s parking lot at around 10pm on a Tuesday night in July 2021. The complaint filed by Mr. Maguire’s estate claims that Mr. Maguire was stabbed by an unknown assailant without provocation in the restaurant parking lot. It also states that the McDonald’s employees inside knew that he was seriously injured and failed to come to his aid. Mr. Maguire died as a result of his injuries.
The Pat’s King of Steaks case also relates to an incident that happened in July 2021. In this case, the victim, David Padro, Jr. was shot outside the cheesesteak shop by a customer in line waiting to order. Mr. Padro had driven to the cheesesteak shop and parked next to a van outside. A woman in the van accused Mr. Padro of bumping into the van and they began to argue. The woman’s boyfriend, who was in line at Pat’s, joined the argument and got a gun from the van. The argument continued outside the Pat’s cashier’s window and escalated to a physical altercation, which culminated in the boyfriend shooting Mr. Padro in the chest. According to the complaint, no one rendered first aid to Mr. Padro before the police arrived less than 5 minutes later. The woman and her boyfriend were both convicted in criminal court.
Who are the defendants in the negligent security claims?
The defendants in these cases are businesses and property owners, including different companies within the same corporate group. There are multiple defendants in each case, which is typical in a negligent security case, but can be legally and practically complex.
The defendants in the McDonald’s case include various McDonald’s companies, the company that operated the individual McDonald’s restaurant, and the property owner/landlord. McDonald’s is a large corporation with many different companies in its corporate group. It is also a franchise structure so the franchisee is usually named in the negligent security claim. Finally, this McDonald’s restaurant is on leased property. Depending on the terms of the commercial lease, the property owner-landlord may have some responsibility for the security arrangements at the property.
In the Pat’s King of Steaks case, the defendants are all companies that owned, leased, or operated the business of Pat’s King of Steaks or the property where it is located. Five defendants are named and the plaintiff may be allowed to add more that are discovered as the case progresses. A plaintiff’s lawyer will try to identify all of the defendants before a negligent security claim is filed, but some of the corporate structures and commercial arrangements that can affect a case are private and can only be obtained through the legal process of discovery.
What is the basis of the negligent security claims?
In both the McDonald’s case and the Pat’s cases, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants were negligent because there was a known hazard on their premises that they failed to warn about or make safe. The known hazard was the risk of violent assault. It was known (or should have been known) about by the defendants because other people (including other customers) had been victims of violence on or near the restaurant properties. Despite that, the defendants did not hire or train security personnel and did not appropriately monitor the premises.
In both cases, the plaintiffs also claim that the employees failed to act as they should have to prevent or stop the attack, or to render aid to the injured victim. In Mr. Maguire’s case, the plaintiff claims that McDonald’s staff inside the restaurant at the time of the assault saw that Mr. Maguire was seriously injured and overwhelmed during the attack but did not come to his aid. In Mr. Padro’s case, an employee said that he heard the argument escalating three feet outside the cashier’s window and ignored it. No one helped Mr. Padro after he was shot.
Mr. Maguire’s case also claims that the property landlord was negligent by failing to evict a business that was creating a dangerous condition on their premises.
In brief, these cases claim that the defendants knew about a dangerous condition on their premises, and if they had taken appropriate action to rectify the dangerous condition, the victims would not have been harmed, therefore the defendants should be held liable.
What compensation could be awarded for a negligent security claim?
The victims in the negligent security claims against Pat’s King of Steaks and McDonald’s were both fatally injured. This means that they have brought a claim for the suffering and expenses of the victims themselves (called a survival action) and a claim for the losses and harm caused to the victim’s surviving family members (a wrongful death action). Both plaintiffs request at least $50,000 in compensation for each action.
Compensation in a negligent security claim such as these could include:
- The victim’s medical expenses
- The victim’s pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Costs of Estate administration
- Loss of the comfort, care, society, support, and services
- Past and future lost income and earnings capacity
A court could also choose to award punitive damages, though this is less common. Punitive damages are calculated to punish particularly egregious conduct by a defendant, rather than to compensate an injured plaintiff.
Why did they wait 2 years to file a negligent security claim?
Both of the attacks in these cases happened in July 2021 but the negligent security claims were not filed until July 2023. A negligent security claim cannot be filed once the statute of limitations period has expired. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a negligent security claim is two years. Therefore, it is likely that these plaintiffs’ lawyers used all the time that they had to gather evidence and prepare a strong case for the plaintiffs before filing it at the end of the two year statute of limitations period.
These are just two of many negligent security cases that have come to our attention recently. These cases are in their earliest stages and it remains to be seen what the outcome will be for the victims’ families. A negligent security claim can be a long and complex process, however for the victim or their families, it can mean justice and financial security when faced with an unfair, unexpected, and life altering circumstance.
At Morris James, our attorneys have been standing up for victims since we opened our doors in 1932. If you or a loved one has been harmed as a result of negligent security or you have questions about this topic, you may find answers in our Negligent Security FAQs. You can also contact us online or call us 302.655.2599 to learn more.