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This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.
Thanks for starting your day with us!
I'm Gary Martin Hays.
Now let's go to the next question from one of our viewers.
Thanks for taking my question, Gary. I'm writing you about something that happened to my daughter about six weeks ago and it's difficult for me to even write you about it.
She is a college student living off campus in an apartment complex. When she was opening the door to her apartment, a man she didn't know came out from the behind the stairs, forced her inside, and sexually assaulted her.
As you might imagine, I have so many emotions right now. I'm thankful she is still alive, though she is very traumatized. She is going for counseling and they are so many people supporting her right now.
Here's my question: The apartment complex advertised that it was very safe because you have to drive through a security gate to get into the parking lot. They even told my daughter when she moved in to the place that they have a security guard that lives in the complex to patrol the grounds.
Since the attack, we have learned that there have been a few robberies in the parking lot, and one other rape in the complex. Does my daughter have a claim against the apartment complex for their lack of security? Do we need a lawyer to help my daughter?
-Name withheld upon request.
I am so sorry to hear about what happened to your daughter.
Please know that your daughter and your entire family - remain in our thoughts and prayers.
In the United States, a sexual assault occurs every 2 minutes.
Each year, there are over 237,000 sexual assaults.
And did you know that 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to police?
I'm very glad your daughter is getting counseling for this attack.
She needs to know that no one has the right to hurt her and this attack was not her fault.
If any of our viewers have been a victim of a sexual assault, I want you to know that there is help and support out there for you and it is free.
You can either call a local Rape Crisis Center or you can call the free national hotline to a rape support group - RAINN.
Their toll free number is 1 800 656-HOPE.
Now let's talk about the legal claim against the apartment complex:
Georgia courts have held that:
"The general rule is that a landlord is not an insurer of his tenant's safety; however, landlords do have a duty to exercise ordinary care to prevent foreseeable third-party criminal attacks upon tenants."
-Brookview Holdings v. Suarez, 285 Ga. App. 90, 645 S.E.2d 559 (2007)
The courts have also told us that "[P]rior property crimes may give a landlord notice of possible future crimes against a person."
-Walker v. Aderhold Props. Inc., 303 Ga. App. 710, 694 S.E.2d 119 (2010)
Now let me stress this point:
Negligent security cases are not easy. They are time intensive and difficult.
Let me give you 5 ways we try to show the defendant business owner was negligent in protecting people on its property.
(1) Prior Crimes
The most common way that we can prove the apartment complex is liable for these types of incidents is by establishing the apartment company knew or should have known about prior crimes in the complex.
One way we do this is by securing the crime reports from the local police department through an open records request.
The apartment complex was on notice of a serious security problem on their premises yet they did not do enough to protect the tenants that paid money to live there.
(2) The Defendant Business Owner's Internal Reports
We also look to see if the defendant apartment complex or business had any internal reports which identified prior crimes in the area as these are admissible.
(3) What Security practices are in place?
Another thing we investigate is what security practices the business 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 property or in the area. These are especially helpful if the crime occurred at the same location - showing the business knew of the prior incident.
(5) Security Experts
There are times where we may hire security experts to help us establish that the Defendant business owner 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.
If you or a family member have been the victim of a violent crime in a commercial establishment, I encourage you to call us right away for a free, confidential consultation.