Sexual Assault Lawyer in Austin Discusses Premises Liability and Assault

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Assault, Premises Liability, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, Uber Sexual Assault

Premises liability and sexual assault are two legal concepts that intersect in complex ways. Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of property owners or occupiers to ensure the safety of individuals on their property. Sexual assault involves non-consensual sexual activity. In Texas, premises liability assault laws outline the duties of property owners to prevent foreseeable harm, including sexual assaults, on their premises.

Understanding these laws is crucial for both property owners and individuals who may be affected by such incidents. Below, our sexual assault lawyer in Austin discusses the intersection between premises liability and sexual assault. Find out how these two legal concepts are related, and when it may be possible to sue a property owner after assault occurs.

Premises Liability in Texas

In Texas, premises liability laws are primarily based on the duty of care owed by property owners or occupiers to individuals who enter their premises. This duty of care varies depending on the legal status of the individual entering the property, which can be classified into three categories:

  • Invitees: These are individuals who enter the property for the benefit of the property owner, such as customers in a store or guests at a hotel.
  • Licensees: Licensees have permission to enter the property but do so for their own purposes, such as social guests or friends.
  • Trespassers: Trespassers enter the property without permission from the owner or occupier.

Property owners owe the highest duty of care to invitees, followed by licensees, and a limited duty of care to trespassers.

Under Texas law, property owners are required to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition and to warn individuals of any known hazards that could cause harm. Failure to fulfill this duty of care can result in liability for injuries sustained on the property.

Sexual Assault Laws in Texas

Sexual assault is a serious criminal offense in Texas, encompassing various forms of non-consensual sexual activity. Texas law defines sexual assault as any unwanted sexual penetration or contact, including rape, sodomy, and unwanted touching. Consent, which is defined as voluntary and informed agreement to engage in sexual activity, is a crucial factor in determining whether an act constitutes sexual assault.

In Texas, sexual assault laws apply regardless of the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. This means that sexual assault can occur between strangers, acquaintances, or individuals in a domestic relationship. The severity of the offense and potential penalties vary depending on factors such as the age of the victim, the use of force or coercion, and the presence of aggravating circumstances.

Intersection of Premises Liability and Sexual Assault

The intersection of premises liability and sexual assault occurs when a sexual assault occurs on someone else’s property. In such cases, the property owner or occupier may be held liable if they failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the assault. Also, if they were negligent in maintaining a safe environment.

Property owners have a duty to take reasonable measures to protect their patrons, guests, or tenants from foreseeable harm, including criminal acts such as sexual assault. This duty may include providing adequate security measures, such as:

  • Lighting
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Security personnel

This is especially important in areas where the risk of criminal activity, including sexual assault, is known or foreseeable.

Courts consider various factors in determining whether a property owner is liable for a sexual assault that occurs on their premises. These factors may include the history of criminal activity on the property, the adequacy of security measures, the relationship between the victim and the assailant, and whether the property owner had prior knowledge of any potential dangers.

Recent Developments and Case Law

In recent years, there have been significant developments in Texas regarding premises liability and sexual assault cases. Courts have increasingly recognized the duty of property owners to protect individuals from foreseeable harm, including sexual assault. Courts have increasingly held them accountable for failing to implement adequate security measures.

One notable case is Doe v. Lutheran Social Services of the South, where the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a property owner could be held liable for a sexual assault that occurred on their premises if they knew or should have known about the risk of harm and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent it. This landmark decision established a precedent for holding property owners accountable for sexual assaults on their property.

Where do Sexual Assaults Commonly Happen?

Sexual assaults can unfortunately occur in a variety of settings, both public and private. While it is essential to note that sexual assaults can happen anywhere, some locations are more commonly associated with these crimes due to factors such as lack of supervision, reduced visibility, or increased vulnerability of potential victims. Here are some common settings where sexual assaults may occur:

Residential Areas

Sexual assaults can happen in residential neighborhoods, including houses, apartments, or condominiums. Perpetrators may target individuals within their own homes or those of friends, family members, or acquaintances.

College Campuses

College campuses are unfortunately known for incidents of sexual assault, often due to the presence of alcohol, parties, and dormitory living situations. In some cases, perpetrators may be fellow students, faculty members, or individuals who gain access to campus grounds.

Bars and Nightclubs

Settings where alcohol is served, such as bars and nightclubs, can be environments where sexual assaults occur. Factors such as impaired judgment, crowded spaces, and dim lighting may increase the risk of predatory behavior.

Public Transportation

Sexual assaults can happen on buses, trains, subways, or other forms of public transportation. Perpetrators may take advantage of crowded conditions or isolated areas within the transit system. Assaults can also happen while using rideshare services like Uber and Lyft.


Sexual harassment and assault can occur in workplaces, including offices, factories, restaurants, or retail stores. Perpetrators may be coworkers, supervisors, or individuals with access to the premises.

Parks and Recreation Areas

Public parks, trails, and recreational areas may be settings for sexual assaults, especially if they are poorly lit or secluded. Individuals may be targeted while jogging, walking, or engaging in recreational activities.

Private Residences During Social Gatherings

Parties or gatherings at private residences can create opportunities for sexual assaults, particularly if attendees are consuming alcohol or drugs. Perpetrators may exploit social situations or target individuals who are intoxicated or vulnerable.

It is important to recognize that sexual assaults can happen anywhere and can affect individuals of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. Strategies for preventing sexual assault include promoting awareness, educating individuals about consent and boundaries, advocating for bystander intervention, and implementing policies and security measures to create safer environments.

When Can a Property Owner be Held Liable for Sexual Assault?

In the context of premises liability, a property owner can be held liable for sexual assault under certain circumstances. While laws vary by jurisdiction, there are common factors considered in determining when a property owner may be held responsible for sexual assaults that occur on their premises. Here are some situations where a property owner might be held liable for sexual assault:

Failure to Provide Adequate Security

Property owners have a duty to maintain a safe environment for individuals on their premises. This duty may include providing adequate security measures such as lighting, surveillance cameras, security personnel, and locks to prevent foreseeable criminal acts, including sexual assault. If a property owner fails to implement reasonable security measures given the circumstances, they may be held liable for any resulting sexual assaults.

Knowledge of Prior Incidents

If a property owner is aware of prior incidents or a history of criminal activity, including sexual assaults, on their premises and fails to take appropriate action to address or mitigate the risk, they may be held liable for subsequent assaults. This includes situations where the property owner had notice of a dangerous condition or criminal activity but did not take reasonable steps to prevent harm to individuals on the property.

Negligent Hiring or Supervision

In cases where a sexual assault is committed by an employee or agent of the property owner, such as security personnel, maintenance workers, or property managers, the property owner may be held liable for negligent hiring, training, or supervision. If the property owner knew or should have known about the employee’s propensity for violence or sexual misconduct and failed to take appropriate action, they may be held responsible for the assault.

Inadequate Response to Complaints

If a property owner receives complaints or reports of suspicious behavior, harassment, or sexual misconduct on their premises and fails to investigate or address the concerns, they may be held liable for subsequent sexual assaults. Ignoring or minimizing complaints and failing to take corrective action can contribute to a hostile environment that enables predatory behavior.

Attractive Nuisance Doctrine

Under the attractive nuisance doctrine, property owners may be held liable for injuries, including sexual assaults, that occur on their property if they maintain an attractive nuisance that lures individuals, particularly children, onto the premises. Examples of attractive nuisances may include swimming pools, abandoned buildings, or other hazards that pose a foreseeable risk of harm.

It is important to note that liability for sexual assault on someone else’s property depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each case, as well as applicable laws and legal standards. Property owners should take proactive measures to identify and mitigate potential risks, implement appropriate security measures, respond promptly to complaints or incidents, and prioritize the safety and wellbeing of individuals on their premises.

Learn More about Premises Liability and Assault

Premises liability and assault laws in Texas intersect to hold property owners accountable for maintaining safe environments and preventing foreseeable harm to individuals on their premises. Property owners have a legal duty to implement reasonable security measures and to take steps to protect patrons, guests, or tenants from criminal acts, including sexual assault.

If you or someone you love has suffered sexual assault and you believe that a negligent property owner may be partially responsible, contact Kherkher Garcia to learn more. When two areas of law intersect, it is best to secure legal guidance from a lawyer who is well versed in both areas of law. At Kherkher Garcia, we have more than 30 years of experience in personal injury law, including premises liability and assault cases.

Get a free confidential consultation with our sexual assault lawyer in Austin by calling 713-333-1030, or by completing our online contact form.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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