Most commercial property owners have certain obligations to maintain a safe premises. When they fail in their reasonable security obligations, they can be held legally responsible for resulting damages. An experienced premises liability lawyer can provide legal representation to victims of violence or their surviving family members when a property owner's negligence contributed to the death.
Apartment Complex and Security Company Sued for Inadequate Security
Sun Sentinel reported one example of a recent case where a lawsuit has been filed based on negligent security. Parents of a woman who was killed have filed a lawsuit against the managers of the apartment complex where she lived, as well as against a security company. The allegations raised in the lawsuit indicate the victim's parents believe inadequate nighttime lighting, inadequate locks, and a lack of reasonable security were contributing factors leading to their daughter's death.
The death leading to the lawsuit occurred in June 2014. Detectives indicate a 15-year-old-neighbor of the victim entered her apartment through a sliding glass door off the kitchen. He allegedly took a knife from the victim's kitchen, stabbed her multiple times, and then stole her wallet. DNA evidence was found at the scene matching the accused neighbor, and the neighbor has been arrested for petit theft, armed burglary, and premeditated murder. He is pleading not guilty and is being prosecuted as an adult.
The victim's parents filed a lawsuit against the apartment and security company one year from the time of the victim's death. The key question in determining if the property owner or security company will be liable is whether they breached the obligation they owed to the victim.
Apartment complex managers and other commercial property owners cannot prevent every act of violence. However, they do have a duty to residents or visitors to the property to ensure the premises is reasonably safe. If there are inadequate locks on apartment doors, or if security services are promised but not provided, this can create liability on the part of the property owners.
Foreseeability generally becomes an issue in negligent security cases. Property owners only must protect residents or patrons against foreseeable risks, or risks which can be anticipated. In high crime areas, in areas where there is a greater risk of criminal behavior, or in areas where there have been previous criminal acts, the property owner may have a greater responsibility because more dangers are foreseeable.
In this case, the parents will need to prove the apartment managers and security company failed to fulfill a duty to the victim of the crime by not providing a safe home environment. The parents will also need to prove the inadequate lighting, inadequate locks, and other property conditions could foreseeably have resulted in the crime being committed. If this is successful proved, the parents may be able to recover wrongful death damages for the loss of their daughter due to the preventable criminal act.