Like many cities across the country, Atlanta is experiencing a surge in homicides amid the COVID pandemic, with the rate of violent crime up 60% since last year, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Gun violence is a leading cause of these deaths, many of which have occurred at apartment complexes. Sadly, these cases underscore some of the negligent security problems our negligent security lawyers are seeing and the work we are doing to serve individuals and communities hit hard by this wave of violence. There may be a link between gun violence and negligent security claims.
Apartment complexes should be safe places that families can call home, and property owners often advertise them as such. Tragically, however, these buildings can be some of the most dangerous places to live in or visit.
In July, a woman visiting Atlanta from out of town was killed at an apartment complex that markets itself to college students. Days later, law enforcement responded to reports of another gunshot victim at a gas station. The officers followed a bloody trail back to a nearby apartment building where they discovered a female resident had been shot to death, the Macon Telegraph reported.
These cases are only a couple of examples of residents and visitors being shot to death on the premises of properties where they reasonably would expect better protection. In the context of a surge in gun-related crimes, premises liability cases like these may beg the question, “Are these criminal attacks due to negligent security?”
A negligent security claim is a type of premises liability case involving a crime committed by a third-party assailant, resulting in serious personal injury or death when a property owner fails to take reasonable measures to prevent criminal activity.
Property owners in Georgia and most other states have a duty to provide reasonable security measures that adequately protect customers, tenants, and other invitees and guests from foreseeable harm while on the property, be it an apartment complex, bar, restaurant, movie theater, shopping mall, and so on. As gun violence and negligent security lawyers know, cases arise on just about any type of property.
To hold property owners accountable for negligent security claims, courts typically will determine whether a property owner knew or should have known about risks. One of the ways to do so is to assess what prior crimes existed in and around the same location. The court will also look to a variety of other factors as well to assess whether it was reasonable to anticipate that a criminal act could occur. The court will look to whether the property owner took reasonable security measures to prevent or deter crimes resulting in personal injury and wrongful death from occurring.
For premises liability lawyers, foreseeability is a pivotal factor in negligent security cases. In the cases that we take, we believe the circumstances are such that property owners either knew or should have foreseen criminal victimization would occur, given the characteristics of the property and the history of previous crime on and around the property.
Suppose, for instance, gang and drug activity, thefts, or crimes such as sexual assaults, shootings or robberies repeatedly occur on or near a particular apartment complex or gas station. Property owners should be aware of these, and failure to take account of this criminal activity for the benefit of customers and employees could give rise to a negligent security lawsuit.
When negligent security lawyers file suit on behalf of those who have suffered personal injury or wrongful death because property owners failed to take adequate security measures, the court will likely find the risks of harm were foreseeable to the property owners and that they should be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages.
And clearly, in the circumstances that we oftentimes see, this is the right result and one that will improve the quality of life of all. Failure to take basic security measures can lead to broader repercussions throughout the community. It disrupts the economy, overwhelms police departments, causes needless injury and death to victims, and robs people of their lives and sense of well-being.
Apartment complexes are not the only commercial properties experiencing these tragedies. Atlanta malls, hotels, parking garages, parking lots, gas stations, supermarkets, strip malls, and pharmacies have been a frequent hotbed of criminal activity recently. While metal detectors may keep weapons out of a mall, for instance, they won’t protect patrons in the parking lots of these facilities. In fact, parking lots can be some of the most dangerous places for customers leaving a place of business.
Parker Miller is the firm’s lead negligent security lawyer in Georgia and a personal injury attorney in our Atlanta office, has expertise in premises liability and negligent security cases. He is currently handling numerous major cases across the State of Georgia and beyond. If you need to speak with a negligent security lawyer or need more information relating to these cases or premises liability generally, please contact Parker Miller.