Georgia Supreme Court Issues an Important Decision on Negligent Security Claims


On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued its much-anticipated decision in Georgia CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. Carmichael on the liability of proprietors and security contractors for personal injuries that arise out of third-party criminal conduct. Although the decision addresses many aspects of these claims, some questions remain to be resolved.

With respect to proprietors, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that no duty is owed unless the crime was “reasonably foreseeable.” The relevant inquiry is “whether the totality of the circumstances relevant to the premises gave the proprietor sufficient reason to anticipate the criminal act giving rise to the plaintiff’s injuries on the premises.” Such circumstances can include whether the premises are in a high-crime area and whether the proprietor was aware of a volatile situation brewing on the premises. The inquiry is not boundless, however, as the landowner would need to know of the circumstances for a duty to exist and they would need to be sufficient to require security measures to be taken. Except in “plain and palpable” cases, however, this inquiry is for a jury to resolve.

If a duty exists, there would then need to be a finding that the proprietor was negligent before liability could attach. In that connection, if “the proprietor’s security measures were reasonable, or if the plaintiff fails to present evidence that the security precautions employed to protect against the particular foreseeable risk of harm violated the applicable standard of care, then there was no breach of duty, and there can be no finding of negligence.” Thus, the Supreme Court emphasizes the need to address the standard of care and the reasonableness of the security measures that were taken to determine whether any duty was breached under the circumstances. Again, however, this determination will be for the jury except in clear cases where the evidence would not support a finding of negligence.

The Supreme Court next turned to security companies who contract with proprietors to provide security services on the premises. Although security companies do not owe a duty to keep the premises safe, they can undertake to perform that duty by the terms of the contract to provide security services. In reaching that conclusion the Supreme Court relied on the so-called good Samaritan rule which, in addition to an undertaking to render protective services, requires a finding that the failure to exercise “reasonable care” increased the risk of harm; performed a duty owed by another to the third party; or the harm was suffered based on reliance upon the undertaking being performed. At the very least, therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s ruling that a breach of contractual duties owed by the security company to the proprietor can never give rise to a legal duty to third parties.

The majority opinion was met with concurrences by some justices who believe the standards announced are too broad in their scope and did not need to be reached to decide the application of the facts that were presented in the cases. Yet while the justices validated concerns as to the effect on businesses and communities especially in high-crime areas, they all agreed that any significant modifications in the law would need to come from the General Assembly in the form of statutes passed by the Legislature. This sentiment, which was vocal throughout the opinions, may lead to an interesting legislative session in 2024.

At least for time being, therefore, Carmichael is expected to increase the need for trials of negligent security claims with fewer grants of summary judgment along the way. Even if liability is questionable on legal grounds, the outcomes of trials may turn on such intangibles as sympathy and witness likeability, particularly when significant injuries are involved. As such, anyone involved in handling these types of claims needs to be aware of their breadth and scope in Georgia.

The decision can be accessed at

For further inquiries, please contact Jennifer Adair, Chair of the firm’s Southeast Tort Practice Team, at