Inadequate Security #3: Apartment Complexes
This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of ‘Do I Need a Lawyer?’ hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.
I’m Gary Martin Hays.
Instead of taking a question in this segment, I want to just talk about an area of law that my firm handles. These cases involve inadequate security in a commercial establishment.
Georgia law requires owners of properties and businesses to protect their customers and tenants from unreasonable dangers. These individuals and companies are required to take minimum steps to learn of dangerous conditions and to correct them. But when these businesses do not take reasonable steps to correct the unsafe condition and someone is seriously injured or killed, there is a potential claim for inadequate security.
Let me stress one important point though:
Just because someone is injured on someone’s property does not mean the property owner or business is at fault.
We must prove that (1) The business owner had prior knowledge of the hazard or danger and (2) the business owner did not take reasonable steps to correct the hazard or prevent the injury from occurring.
Today I want to focus on inadequate security cases involving apartment complexes.
The two most common types of attacks we see involving apartment complexes are sexual assaults and shootings.
And it seems that every time you turn on the news, you hear about someone being shot or sexually assaulted in their apartment parking lot or inside their apartment. These reports are very disturbing. What’s worse is knowing that if the apartment complex had exercised reasonable care, a lot of these crimes could have been prevented.
When these attacks occur, we typically find one of two things have happened:
(1) The attacker is a resident at the apartment complex, or is a guest of a resident;
(2) The attacker came onto the apartment complex grounds as a trespasser.
Let me explain:
* If the attacker actually lived at the apartment complex, it is a challenge for us to show that increased security measures would have kept the attack from happening.
* Could the apartment complex have screened the tenant better by doing a criminal background check on him? Could they have rejected him as a tenant?
* Were there burned out or broken lights in the parking lot or breeze way that provided the cover of darkness for the attacker?
How long were these lights out?
* Is the parking lot fenced?
* And let’s look inside the tenant’s apartment – are the locks on the doors and windows inadequate or broken – allowing easy access for the criminal attackers?
* Now let’s look at when the attacker is a trespasser on the apartment property.
Our investigation focuses on two things in these types of attacks:
(1) We need to discover if other attacks occurred on the property before the attack we are investigating;
(2) We must find evidence to show the apartment complex did not implement the reasonable, necessary safety measures to protect its tenants after these crimes and attacks started to happen.
Here are 5 ways we try to prove the defendant business owner was negligent in protecting people on its property:
(1) Prior Crimes
We start by securing the crime reports from the local police department through an open records request.
If there were prior violent criminal acts at the apartment complex, then the apartment complex is constructively on notice of a serious security problem on their premises. The complex has an obligation to protect the tenants that paid money to live there, and to take action to remedy or reduce the danger to its tenants.
(2) The Defendant Business Owner’s Internal Reports
We also look to see if the defendant apartment complex had any internal reports which identified prior crimes in the area.
(3) What Security practices are in place?
Another thing we investigate is what security practices the apartment complex has in place to protect the people that are invited onto its property.
(4) Prior Victims?
We may also interview prior victims of similar crimes at the apartment complex or in the area. These are especially helpful if the crime occurred at the same location – showing the landlord knew of the prior incidents.
(5) Security Experts
There are times where we may hire security experts to help us establish that the apartment complex breached the standard of care by not having security when needed, or by having an inadequate amount of security.
As you can see, the handling of a premises liability / inadequate security case can be a challenging effort.
You need an attorney experienced in these types of cases.
If you or a family member have been the victim of a violent crime – a shooting, stabbing, or sexual assault in an apartment complex, I encourage you to call us right away for a free, confidential consultation.