Can I sue a store if my car was stolen in their parking structure even though a security guard was on duty?

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Can I sue a store if my car was stolen in their parking structure even though a security guard was on duty?

Not to mention the security guard said a same brand of my car was stolen last week on their parking structure. I seems to me that he is not taking his job seriously.

Asked on December 2, 2011 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, you probably cannot effectively sue the store:

1) As a general matter, stores do not have an obligation to protect the cars of their patrons/customers from theft.

2) Even if circumstances (e.g. a high crime rate) do establish some duty or obligation, the presence of a security guard most likely discharged that obligation.

Theoretically, if there is a high crime rate in that lot or the general area, *and* you can show that the guard was negligent, or unreasonably careless, you *might* be able to recover for your car. However, the mere fact that the car (or cars) were stolen does not by itself prove that the guard was careless--car thefts can happen very quickly (my own car was stolen in less than 1 minute from my driveway, for example), and guards are not expected to be able to stop all crime, just to take reasonable steps (e.g. patrol). You'd have to show the guard was asleep or absent from his post, or something similar, even after you were able to establish there was enough crime to impose a duty to have a guard, in order to be able to recover compensation.


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