Breaking Down a Sexual Assault Responsibility Claim in South Carolina
Except for the recreational use of unimproved land, property owners in South Carolina have a duty of care to protect the people who use their land. This responsibility includes an obligation to provide adequate security. If stagehands don’t do their jobs properly, actors cannot act and the show cannot go on. Likewise, if property owners don’t provide adequate security, or an organization doesn’t properly screen and supervise workers, bad guys have a chance to commit sexual assaults, and the victims are seriously injured.
These assaults cause physical and psychological injuries, mostly psychological ones. In addition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many sex abuse victims cannot trust people or have meaningful relationships with other people. All these psychological injuries make it almost impossible to function on an everyday basis. Making matters worse, since the brain hides traumatic memories, many victims struggle with these symptoms for decades before they get the treatment they need.
No matter how much time has passed since the incident, a Columbia personal injury attorney can obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve. The delayed discovery rule allows victims to delay filing legal actions until they know the full extent of their losses and they connect those losses with a tortfeasor’s (wrongful actor’s) conduct or misconduct. Property owners and organizations are usually financially responsible for damages in these cases.
Duty of Care
We mentioned the duty of care in premises liability claims above. In South Carolina and most other American jurisdictions, the duty of care varies, depending on the relationship between the victim and owner, as follows:
- Invitee: Most sexual assault victims are shoppers, customers, or social guests. These people are invitees under South Carolina law. Property owners have a duty of reasonable care to inspect and remove injury hazards, including sexual predators.
- Licensee: Many other sexual assault victims are “come up to my room” victims. Legally, these victims have permission to enter the room, but they don’t economically or noneconomically benefit the owner. Therefore, a lower standard of care applies in most situations.
- Trespasser: In a way, all sexual assault tortfeasors are trespassers. Building owners and organizational leaders don’t allow such conduct. However, the victim’s status is all that counts, and that status is almost always invitee or licensee.
Once a Columbia personal injury attorney establishes the standard of care, an attorney must usually establish negligent hiring or negligent supervision.
Owners and leaders negligently hire individuals when they don’t properly screen them or hire legally incompetent workers. Proper screening usually means verifying references and factoring those results into the hiring decision. If the legal incompetence is a criminal record, like an assault record, special rules apply.
Negligent supervision is basically a failure to properly monitor employees or a failure to properly discipline them. The proper employee monitoring level depends on the situation. If misconduct allegations arise, these allegations must be promptly, transparently, fairly, and thoroughly investigated. The employee discipline must be proportional to the investigation’s conclusions.
A breakdown in any area is negligence.
Knowledge of Hazard
Owners and leaders are liable for damage if they knew, or should have known, about the injury-causing hazard.
Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes poor references and unfavorable investigations. If employers ignore red flags or sweep things under the rug, they clearly know about the hazard. Willful blindness is not a defense. For example, during the screening process, employers must ask the right questions and act based on the answers to these questions.
Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) is admissible as well. This evidence must prove constructive knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Furthermore, the injury must be foreseeable. If Max commits a sexual assault and his employer legitimately saw no warning signs, his employer might not be responsible for damages.
Count on a Tenacious Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. We are not satisfied with anything less than the best possible results under the circumstances.