Violent Crime and Florida ATM Premises Liablity Law

ATM.jpgDue to flawed record keeping, it is impossible to know with confidence how often violent crimes — murder, kidnapping, battery or robbery — are committed in Florida in conjunction with obtaining cash involuntarily from a victim’s ATM. Most law enforcement agencies do not maintain a separate category for ATM crime. Instead, it is listed in more general categories such as robbery, homicide, and sexual battery/rape. The Universal Crime Report (UCR) forms do not have a place to note that a forced ATM withdrawal has taken place.

Despite the lack of information, ATM-related crime is believed to be high. Put another way, ATM-related crime is foreseeable.

The foreseeability of a harmful event happening is an essential element of every personal injury case. For a defendant to be held accountable under civil tort law, the victim, or Plaintiff, must prevent evidence on the issue of foreseeability.

Crime statistics are a way of proving foreseeability in civil tort actions for injuries or death resulting from inadequate security or safety measures. See Holley v. Mt. Zion Terrace Apartments, Inc., 382 So. 2d 98 – Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 1980.

There are no reported Florida appellate court cases involving allegations of negligence against banks or credit unions for ATM-related crime. However, traditional premises liability standards should apply. In essence, those who control premises have a duty to provide reasonably safe premises. (This standard should apply equally to stand-alone machines and those that are part of bank buildings.) In the Holley case, above, the apartment complex was held liable for a tenant’s rape and murder where it failed to provide any security even though it knew of seven violent crimes having been committed in the complex in the previous one year period. The DCA viewed the defendant’s lack of foreseeability defense as hogwash.

Ways of providing a safe ATM experience include: placement of ATM machines in well-lit, highly traveled areas; avoid trees and shrubs that provide cover to criminals and block bystanders and road traffic from seeing the machines; silent alerts activated by, for example, inputting the PIN number in reverse; quality cameras that cover a wide range of view — thieves often stand off to the side, out of the range of commonly used cameras; security guards in and around the area; removing ATM machines from unreasonably high crime areas.
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If you or someone you know has been injured by an ATM-related crime, contact us toll free at 866-785-GALE or by email for a free, confidential consultation.

Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.