September 21, 2016

Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby

Can you assert a claim against an apartment complex for a murder or other third party criminal act?

Yes, in fact, a recent Clayton County jury awarded $10,000,000.00 against an apartment complex for their alleged negligent security practices which reportedly resulted in a tenant being killed. There can be claims asserted in many instances for an Atlanta apartment shooting, an Atlanta apartment murder, or (for that matter) a crime on the property of any business in Atlanta.

This is because, under Georgia law, property owners have a non-delegable duty to exercise ordinary care to keep their premises safe. This duty extends to criminal acts of a third party. “Proprietors have a duty to protect customers from reasonably foreseeable criminal acts, and the question of reasonable foreseeability is generally for a jury to determine.” Double View Ventures, LLC v. Polite, 326 Ga. App. 555, 559 (2014). In order to determine whether an incident is reasonably foreseeable, the plaintiff must show that substantially similar prior criminal acts occurred based on “the location, nature, and extent of” those activities. Id.

It is important to note that “[w]hile the prior criminal activity must be substantially similar to the particular crime in question, that does not mean identical. What is required is that the prior incident be sufficient to attract the landlord’s attention to the dangerous condition which resulted in the litigated incident.”  FPI Atlanta, L.P. v. Seaton, 240 Ga. App. 880, 882 (1999). For example, a tenant may successfully bring a claim against an apartment complex for damages resulting from a rape despite the fact that a rape had not previously occurred on the premises, so long as there were other crimes, such as robbery, that would place the landlord on notice of the dangerous condition of the complex. Walker v. Aderhold Props., 303 Ga. App. 710, 712-13.

In addition to proving liability, there must be evidence that the landlord’s lack of security caused the incident. Id. In other words, in general, the plaintiff must provide some evidence that but for the landlord’s negligence the crime would not have occurred on their premises. Id. This can be done in many ways, including, for example, with expert testimony or by demonstrating that the criminal exploited a defect in the landlord’s security system.

These cases are extremely complex and require a competent attorney. If you or someone you know has been injured in an Atlanta apartment shooting, Atlanta apartment burglary, Atlanta apartment robbery, or crime on the property of an Atlanta business, please contact the attorneys at Carr & Weatherby, LLP by giving us a call 404-442-9000 or sending us a message on our contact form.