South Carolina Supreme Court Returns Premises Liability Suit Back to Circuit Court

In 2008, Ida Lord entered Cash on the Spot in Rock Hill South Carolina, and was shot twice, once in the head and once in the back by an armed robber. She survived the incident with permanent injuries. The gunman, Phillip Watts, had earlier shot customers at several businesses nearby during robberies which took place in the weeks prior.  

Miss Lord sued Cash on the Spot and the owners of the business, alleging negligence for failing to use reasonable care for her safety for failing to implement security features.  The Defendant’s filed a motion to dismiss based upon previous South Carolina premises liability law, which stated that a business whose nature didn’t inherently attract criminates does not have the responsibility to protect its customers without knowledge of an imminent probability of harm to a customer. 

The Plaintiff argued on appeal that the Circuit Court should have applied the new rule regarding business owner’s duties owed to customers, known as Gopal II.  The new rule does not alter the duty on business owners to employ reasonable measure to protect customers from foreseeable harm, but it does not require “imminent harm.” The new rule includes a test for determining foreseeability and for determining the economic feasibility of instituting security measures once a potential harm is identified.

Based on the Gopal II test, which was retroactively applied, the Supreme Court held the Plaintiff presented enough testimony, that there was a foreseeable risk of a shooting at the Cash on the Spot, entitling her to present her case to a jury.  It is worth noting that there were unique circumstances involved in this case, which may have provided the persuasive basis for the court’s decision.  

Please feel free to contact an attorney at Stratos Law if you have any questions regarding duties owned to customers of a business. 

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