Legislature passes shopping center security bill
Recently the Puerto Rico Legislature passed Senate Bill 410, known as the "Code of Protection and Security for Visitors, Employees and Lessees of Shopping Centers." This bill seeks to provide the owners and administrators of shopping centers with an additional tool in their efforts to provide protection for all those who visit these centers.
Codes of conduct
If it becomes law (at press time it was pending delivery to the governor), this new bill would give shopping centers the right to adopt and enforce codes of conduct for the safety of its customers. It provides that a shopping center may deny admittance to, and may require the removal of, any person who violates the code's rules.
A code may contain rules reasonably intended to prevent improper conduct and other activities which could be contrary to the image, enjoyment and rights of other persons visiting the center, or that could interfere with the image or operation of the center. A legible copy of the code must be posted on all entrances, as well as in conspicuous places throughout the shopping center.
Notices of Denial of Admittance
The bill also enables shopping center to issue Notices of Denial of Admittance to prohibit the entrance of particular persons, based on their previous behavior. Persons who have either violated a center's code of conduct, taken actions which are detrimental to its image or operations, or allegedly participated in crimes committed at the center may be issued such a notice. These notices must be in writing and must contain certain information such as the reasons for the denial of admittance, as well as the length of time they will be in effect.
The bill also authorizes shopping centers to make someone leave the premises. The center must first let the person know (either verbally or in writing) that he or she is being asked to leave; if the person fails to do so voluntarily, the center may request the aid of the Puerto Rico Police to remove him or her.
In adopting this bill the Legislature provided some valuable discourse regarding the frequency of crimes committed at these centers, as well as the possibility of a court finding that a center which does not take reasonable measures (presumably, including those provided in this bill) could be held liable for the harm caused to a visiting person, who may be the victim of a crime.
The Legislature extrapolated this possibility based upon the case of Pabón v. Axtmayer, 90 D.P.R. 20 (1964), which involved a hotel guest. In Pabón the Puerto Rico Supreme Court stated that "based upon prevailing circumstances in our community, and based upon the doctrine of foreseeability of a risk or harm, it constitutes negligent behavior by a hotel owner in its obligation to provide adequate protection to its guests."
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