While people who survive rape or sexual assault file criminal suits against rapists, Ohio law and jurisprudence states that those who own the place where the crime was committed is civilly liable. This principle is called premises liability. Therefore, owners of establishments such as hotels, motels, casinos, private schools and apartments where a rape or sexual assault incident happened could face a civil case from the survivors, even if they had nothing to do with the crime. Although an overwhelming majority of civil cases related to premises liability get settled out of court, 3% of sexual assault and rape survivors still push through with a full-blown trial for compensation, which could be costly for the establishment owner.
Rape prevention is every business’ responsibility
Under Ohio law, hotels, casinos, apartments, schools, and other business establishments have a responsibility to keep their places safe from rape and sexual assault. The installation of security cameras, adequate lighting, security personnel, and crafting a protocol in reporting a rape or sexual assault incident, among many other methods, are some of the ways business establishments must do in connection with rape prevention.
A plaintiff can sue for civil compensation if a business owner has failed to institute any of these measures that would discourage rapists from committing their crime. They can file the suit as a tort action in Ohio’s courts that could yield them monetary and non-monetary benefits. These benefits are won at the expense of the business or property owner who has been proven negligent in their responsibility to prevent rape.
The plaintiff and defendant in a rape-related premises liability suit in Ohio
It is the aggrieved plaintiff who decides to file a case against the defendant. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty of being negligent. However, the defendant would have to spend much money to pay the plaintiff as compensation per the court’s decision if they are proven negligent. The court may also order that the property of the defendant be sold to fund the winning plaintiff’s compensation if the business owner does submit the stated amount. To save money from a potentially pricey verdict, defendants usually enter into negotiations with the plaintiff, who controls the negotiations from a position of strength. Landlords, school administrators, religious personnel, and corporate workplace managers are some of the possible defendants in a premises liability case.
Standard of care: how defendants can win a rape-related premises liability case
By demonstrating that their establishment has instituted safeguards necessary to prevent rape or sexual assault, business owners can defend themselves from civil suits based on having provided an adequate standard of care against rape in their property. The definition and parameters of “standard of care” depend heavily on the circumstances of the sexual assault case, and it is the court’s sole discretion to decide whether the standard of care has been breached or neglected.
If a business owner has solid evidence of doing everything it can to prevent rape in their premises, a court could still give them a favorable decision. However, gathering the evidence to back up the defense of standard of care might prove difficult, especially if the owner does not know the existence of premises liability or if they are an absentee landlord. They would need the services of a lawyer who knows what to do when faced with a premises liability claim.