Kelley Uustal Trial Attorney
June 3, 2020

Negligent Security – “My family member was seriously wounded or killed at an apartment complex. What are my rights?”

Josiah Graham, Attorney, Kelley | Uustal

Prior to becoming a lawyer, I lost several friends due to gun violence in their communities. Many of these victims were shot and killed in the place they should have felt most secure: in their own homes within apartment complexes.

Without my legal education, I would have never known that the apartment owner could be held responsible for crimes such as these. Honestly, when I was initially introduced to the idea, it sounded slightly unfair since the landowner did not engage in any of these heinous crimes.

But it quickly became apparent to me that in our civil-justice-system, these landowners are responsible for the land they rent and advertise as homes; and a home should be one’s sanctuary. These landowners undoubtedly have a duty to prevent crime from occurring on their property, in order to preserve the sanctuary that their tenants presume to have within their own homes. 

If your family member was injured or killed at an apartment complex, you may be able to sue that complex under the legal theory of Negligent Security.

In fact, landlords in Florida have an obligation to keep their tenants and other guests safe from criminal activity that may occur on the property.

Though a landlord is under no obligation to prevent all crime, if he or she becomes aware of criminal activity occurring on his or her property, the landlord is obligated to step in to assure the safety of his or her tenants. 

For example, if a landlord knows that his property is located within an area where crime is rampant (drug-dealing, shootings, robberies, etc.), and he fails to implement preventative measures, Florida law allows a family member to sue the landlord if their loved one was killed on the property due to such failure to act.

Why? Once the landlord has been put on notice that crime may be afoot, our legal system deems the death as “foreseeable.” Thus, whether the criminal act was foreseeable, is the crux of a Negligent Security case. Criminal activity is more rampant on some properties than others, and therefore a more foreseeable danger to tenants. 

But why is crime more rampant on some properties than others? Experts in criminology explain that criminals seek out places to commit crimes where they believe they are less likely to get caught! Therefore, it is incumbent upon the landlord to take the necessary steps to deter such criminals from targeting their property as an “easy mark.” And the number of steps the landlord takes should reflect level and severity of crime that occurs around the property. 

Naturally, if an apartment complex is in what police officers dub a “high crime area”, then the burden shifts to the landowner to raise their security measures. For instance, a landowner should install guard-gates, hire gate attendants, install surveillance cameras, enclose the property with a functioning fence, perhaps hire security guards, and take any other reasonable steps that would make a criminal feel less confident in committing crimes within this particular property.

However, if the landlord chooses to cut corners on security measures, and a foreseeable crime occurs, such as a murder or robbery, then he or she could face a massive Negligent Security lawsuit soon thereafter. If you or a loved one were seriously injured during the commission of a crime at an apartment complex, hotel, or bar, you should contact a lawyer with proven results handling Negligent Security lawsuits.

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