Violent crime in Atlanta is a problem that has generated significant concern in recent years, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting the city’s violent crime rate to be three times the national average. The city was even named among the top 25 murder capitals in the U.S. by 24/7 Wall Street, based on FBI data.
Although violent acts are usually discussed in the context of criminal law, some victims may have forms of redress available in the civil justice system as well. As our Atlanta personal injury and wrongful death lawyers can explain, one of those is a type of premises liability claim called “negligent security.” This could apply in cases of violent attacks at such as an apartment complex shooting, hotel sexual assault, or convenience store robbery.
Last year, a wrongful death lawsuit settlement required a landlord to pay $3 million in damages for negligent security, following an apartment shooting at a “notoriously dangerous” site in DeKalb County.
While it might seem puzzling that a property owner could be held responsible for a third-party act of violence in which they were not directly involved, our premises liability attorneys can explain how negligent security can contribute to an apartment complex shooting.
What Is Negligent Security?
A claim for civil damages negligent security grounds is rooted in the legal duty of care that virtually all property owners possess: To keep their property reasonably safe for those who enter – particularly if invited by the owner for the owner’s financial benefit.
Negligence can be succinctly described as the failure to use reasonable care when one has a duty to exercise it, resulting in physical injury to another person. In the case of negligent security, a landlord’s duty is to protect customers, tenants, or guests from threats of intrusion, theft, or violence that are known or should be known. If your Atlanta injury lawyer can prove the crime and resulting injuries likely would not have occurred but for the property owner’s failures in keeping the premises safe, they can be held legally responsible.
Some examples of negligent security that could be raised following an apartment shooting or other violent assault may include:
- Lack of adequate locks;
- Lack of enough security guards;
- Poor lighting;
- Failure to install security cameras;
- Failure to repair gates or other security measures;
- Failure to report crimes to appropriate authorities;
- Failure to warn tenants or customers of a known threat.
There is no hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes negligent security. It’s highly case-specific and will depend on the type of property as well as the history of prior violence at and near the site that would tip the owner off to danger.
Three Million Settlement for Negligent Security in Georgia Apartment Shooting
Plaintiffs in the Georgia negligent security lawsuit that resulted in a $3 million settlement last year claimed lax security at the apartment complex contributed to a 2016 shooting that left a 15-year-old boy dead and a 27-year-old man injured.
The defendant/landlord conceded during a pre-trial deposition that the site was not safe for residents, who were “sitting ducks” for criminals, due in large part to a broken security gate and the fact security guards on site were “on the take” in drug-dealing activities. Additional evidence revealed the guards were instructed by the landlord to keep the property safe, rather than the people who resided there.
The shooting occurred during an attempted robbery at the entrance of the site. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported residents reported the site was overrun with gangs and squatters, and that conditions got worse after the shooting. No one was working in the leasing office, the grounds were littered with trash and numerous units suffered damage from vandals, and water leaks. Plaintiffs alleged that if conditions been different and security tighter, the shooting would not have occurred.
A man was later arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in connection with the shooting. The negligent security settlement was paid to the man injured and the family of the teen from the landlord’s property liability insurance policy.
If you suffer injury or a loved one dies as a result of a violent crime on someone else’s property, consider speaking with an Atlanta personal injury attorney to ascertain your legal rights.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.