Violence at Apartment and Mobile Home Communities: Do I have a personal injury claim?
My name is Suzy. I live in an apartment complex. I was raped in my apartment by a maintenance worker who is employed by the property management company that operates my apartment complex. I filed a police report and notified the property management company about the rape. The property management company immediately fired the maintenance worker and apologized to me. Another tenant subsequently told me that six months before I was raped, the same maintenance worker had broken into her apartment and tried to rape her, and that she had reported the incident to the property manager. Do I have a personal injury claim?
Yes. In addition to your claims against the maintenance worker, you may also have several claims against both the property management company and the owner of the apartment complex. (This blog will focus on the claims against the landlord and property management company under Georgia premises liability law.)
A landlord has a duty to protect its tenants from foreseeable third-party criminal attacks.
Under Georgia premises liability law, a landlord has a duty to exercise ordinary care to protect tenants against foreseeable third-party criminal attacks. See O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 (codifying premises liability). In this example, if the maintenance worker’s propensity for violence against women was reasonably foreseeable, then both the landlord and the property management company owed Suzy a duty to protect her from being raped by the maintenance worker.
A third-party criminal attack is reasonably foreseeable when a prior "substantially similar" act occurred on the landlord’s premises.
Under Georgia premises liability law, a tenant may prove that a landlord knew or should have known that a third-party criminal attack on its premises was reasonably foreseeable by showing, for example, that “substantially similar” criminal acts had occurred on the landlord’s premises in the past.
In this example, the landlord and property management company had actual knowledge that the maintenance worker had a propensity to engage in criminal acts (including rape) because a tenant previously notified the property manager that the maintenance worker had broken into her home and attempted to rape her.
A landlord that fails to take reasonable steps to guard against foreseeable third-party criminal attacks on its premises has breached its duty of "ordinary care."
Under Georgia premises liability law, a landlord that has actual or constructive knowledge of a danger, but nevertheless fails to exercise “ordinary care” to guard against that danger, will be liable for any resulting injury to its tenants. What constitutes “ordinary care” depends on the circumstances and the severity of the danger to be guarded against. A landlord may breach its duty of “ordinary care” by failing to investigate complaints about criminal activity on the premises, to warn tenants about criminal activity on the premises, to evict violent tenants, to terminate violent employees, etc.
In this example, the landlord and property management company breached their duty to exercise “ordinary care” by failing to terminate the maintenance worker upon receiving notice of his attempted rape. As the direct and proximate result of that breach, Suzy was raped by the maintenance worker six months later.
If you have been the victim of a criminal attack at an apartment complex or mobile home community, please call us now for a free case evaluation. SMITH LAW has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of victims of violent criminal attacks at apartment and mobile home communities.