What We Can Learn from Bella Notte’s Closing

Premises Liability Issues at Bella NotteBella Notte, a beloved family-owned Italian restaurant in Chicago, recently bid farewell to its patrons after a nearly three-decade legacy. The restaurant had become a hotspot, attracting both upper class suburban diners and celebrities, but ultimately saw their clientele dwindle and liability issues mount.

Established in 1995 by Ramon Aguirre’s father, Bella Notte had become a cherished landmark in Chicago over the years. With an illustrious history of surviving economic downturns, the restaurant served as a testament to resilience and hard work. It also endured the challenges of the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic without government aid.

In recent years, the Italian restaurant’s suburban customer base had dwindled due to a criminal uptick in Chicago, which saw its most violent year since 1996 in 2021 with 796 murders, according to a WBEZ Chicago report. The suburban clientele’s reluctance to venture into inner city areas was cited as a primary cause of Bella Notte’s closure.

We’re pretty heartbroken about losing Bella Notte, but we watched the clip with the owner carefully and found one positive effect: with crime stats at an uncommon high in Chicago, businesses are becoming more aware of their security responsibility to their customers. And any time businesses take steps to protect their clientele from harm, that’s a good thing – even when the reasons for it are anything but good.

What is a negligent security claim against a business?

When you are victimized by either a staff member or a third party at a place of business, you can potentially make a claim for damages under Illinois’ premises liability laws. This type of claim is called a negligent security claim.

Generally, business owners are not liable for criminal conduct by third parties on their property, but there are exceptions to this rule. However, owners or managers of a property are expected to take reasonable steps to protect their patrons and keep them safe. If they have not taken responsibility to ensure their premises are reasonably safe for customers and visitors, they could be held legally accountable for the injuries and losses you sustained.

When does a negligent security claim apply?

A negligent security claim will typically assert that the business owner or manager knew or should have known about the potential for criminal activity on their property but did not take adequate precautions to prevent harm to patrons. These types of cases are only possible when certain factors apply. Those factors include:

  • History of criminal incidents: If a business has a documented history of criminal incidents on its premises and fails to implement adequate security measures, it may be vulnerable to a negligent security claim. Businesses located in areas with known high crime rates have a duty to implement enhanced security measures to protect their customers.
  • Failure to address known risks: If a business is aware of specific risks or threats in its vicinity but fails to address them adequately, it could be held liable for any harm suffered by patrons due to criminal acts.
  • Inadequate security measures: When a business fails to take reasonable steps to protect its patrons, such as installing security cameras, providing adequate lighting, or employing security personnel, it may be considered negligent. Insufficient lighting, for example, can create an environment conducive to criminal acts, making it easier for perpetrators to target victims discreetly. Furthermore, non-functional or poorly maintained security systems may fail to deter or capture criminal activity effectively.
  • Lack of security personnel: The absence of trained security personnel on the premises can leave patrons vulnerable and unprotected. This is especially consequential in an area where criminal activity is commonplace.
  • Negligent hiring practices: Hiring individuals with known violent tendencies or criminal backgrounds without proper vetting can increase the risk to patrons and contribute to a negligent security claim against the establishment.

The business owner has a responsibility to you as their customer, and if those responsibilities are not fulfilled, they can be held legally accountable for your damages.

What types of Chicago businesses can be held liable in a negligent security claim?

Any business with a physical location can be held accountable for your damages if a crime is committed on their property. Locations that are particularly susceptible to negligent security claims include:

  • Apartment buildings and condo units
  • Hotels and motels
  • Amusement parks
  • Retail stores
  • Parking lots
  • Gas stations
  • Bars and restaurants
  • Colleges or universities, especially those with dorms

When a criminal attack occurs, the property owner can be held liable for injuries alongside the attacker. We at Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers advocate for fair compensation for your medical bills, your lost wages, and your pain and suffering, plus any other losses you may have sustained.

What if the attacker is never caught?

We understand that it can feel like an injustice if the person who assaulted you is never apprehended. However, for the purpose of a civil lawsuit, catching the attacker may not be necessary. The property owner owes you a duty of care regardless of whether your attacker is caught. You can still bring a negligent security claim against the owner and seek compensation for your injuries.

If you or a loved one has been victimized at a place of business, whether by an employee of the establishment or a third party, put the strong and experienced Chicago premises liability lawyers at Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers on your side to hold all parties accountable for your damages. We have a long track record of dedicated representation to our Chicago community. Read our testimonials to see how we have helped your neighbors receive the compensation they deserve. Then, call or contact us today for your free consultation.