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As a former insurance defense lawyer for commercial properties, I spent years defending properties in rape and shooting cases and they are disturbing. All too frequently you hear of people getting raped, stabbed, shot and beaten in their apartments. The real shame is that many of the instances could have been avoided.
Although these rapes and assaults can occur on almost any type of property, apartments tend to have the highest incidence.
There are two primary fact patterns we see with apartments:
We will break down the key differences but first, let me explain the legal duties involved with negligent security cases.
Landlords by law cannot guarantee you to be safe from a criminal attack, but the law says that once the property owner is on notice of a crime problem that they take reasonable security precautions to prevent attacks.
In most of the cases we have handled, a thorough investigation of the reported crime at the property will reveal a disturbing trend. The managers of the apartment typically turn a blind eye crime and do not put in place reasonable security measures like improved lighting, cameras and security patrols.
For example, in a case I handled, a 50-year-old Atlanta woman was shot while in bed when a bullet from an AK-47 came through the wall. The bullet came from the rifle of a drug dealer outside errantly shooting at his rival. In discovery, it became apparent that the apartment complex (next door to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary) was overrun with drug dealers and yet they had no nighttime security patrols at all. The owner just left the property-wide open to criminals at night.
In another case, my client was on the premises of an apartment in Stone Mountain Georgia in Dekalb County. He was carjacked and shot in the stomach and left to die. In discovery, we were able to show that the complex had knowledge of over 15 assaults in the area over the last two years and still left the main security gates wide open at night.
Sturbridge Partners, Ltd. v. Walker 267 Ga. 785, 482 SE2d 339 (1997) is one of the key appellate court cases in Georgia negligent security assault cases and lays out the analysis for prior similar crimes.
The key here is showing that there were crimes against people occurring on the property prior to the one you are bringing the claim for. If there is no history of crime on the property, the case will likely be thrown out of court, as it should be.
In cases where the rapist or assailant was a tenant or a guest, it is difficult to argue that increased security would have prevented the assault in most cases. There the focus shifts to whether the apartment complex could have screened the tenant for a criminal background and excluded them. To succeed you would need to show that the tenant had a criminal background and that the apartment knew of their presence and failed to run their standard criminal background check on them.
This is the more common variety and here you need to prove that there was a prior crime against people’s bodies and that after being on notice of the crime, the apartment failed to take sufficient security measures to protect the victim.
In summary, it should be obvious that premises security cases are some of the most complex and motion vulnerable cases in the world of personal injury. If you want to ask questions about your case, please feel free to contact me.