Michigan Premises Liability - Store Owners and Video Cameras

A tragic story has recently placed the entire state of Michigan on notice of a young woman who was abducted a few weeks ago.  Jessica Heeringa was expected to close the gas station that she worked at in Norton Shores, Michigan on April 26.  The police have limited leads in large part because there are no available photographs or video; obviously this kind of information would be extremely useful in tracking down this young woman or her abductor.  It is surprising that a gas station in this day and age would not provide this kind of equipment.  Inquiries and conversations via message boards and water cooler chatter have arisen in this regard; many are shocked and argue that the store owner should be held liable.  It is surprising that a store would not have at least one camera to protect against criminal acts of third parties.  The question becomes: was the store required by law to provide this kind of equipment?

 What is Premises Liability?

 Premises liability is essentially a negligence claim made against a landowner for failing to protect other people who come upon their property.  The duty owed to protect other people is dictated by how those people are classified: invitees, licensees and trespassers.  The lengths that a landowner must go to in an effort to protect other people depend on factors such as what the land is used for and whether there are hidden dangers or abnormally hazardous conditions present.

 Is the Store’s Owner Required to Provide Surveillance Cameras?

 Surprisingly enough, there is no duty on a landowner to install surveillance cameras to protect against criminal acts by third parties.  The Michigan Supreme Court has spoken on this issue and determined that the only duty a store owner has is to “reasonably respond” to situations which pose a risk of “imminent and foreseeable” harm.  What does this mean?  A store owner or employees have a duty to call the police.  There is no doubt that the situation involving Jessica Heeringa is tragic and disturbing.  Despite the fact that many out there believe that the gas station she was employed by should have done more to protect her or other customers, Michigan law does not require much from store owners in this regard.

Summary

By now most Michiganders have heard about the abduction of Jessica Heeringa from a gas station on the west side of the state.  Many wonder whether her employer should be held accountable for failing to provide surveillance cameras in an effort to protect its employees and customers.  Unfortunately, there is no duty on a store owner to provide this equipment under Michigan law. If you have any legal questions, contact our Michigan Premises Liability Attorneys or our Personal Injury Attorneys in Michigan.

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