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Balancing Act: Does a South Carolina Property Owner
Have a Duty to Protect its Invitees from Third-Party Crime?

July 11, 2014
Robert W. Foster, Jr. , Jay T. Thompson

Reprinted with permission from the S.C. Defense Trial Attorneys’ Association

Is a property owner liable when a person is injured on its property by a criminal act
committed by a third party over whom the property owner has no control? This question is the preliminary legal issue in a premises liability, third-party crime case. As crime in the United States has become an increasing societal problem, courts have established analytical structures to determine whether a plaintiff can and should recover from the property owner. As set forth below, the analysis in third-party crime cases turns on which test the court applies to determine whether the third-party criminal act was foreseeable. This article discusses four tests applied in different jurisdictions and explains the “balancing test” South Carolina adopted in Bass v. Gopal, Inc., 395 S.C. 129, 135-38, 716 S.E.2d 910, 913-15 (2011).

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