A negligent security lawsuit stems from a property owner’s responsibility to ensure the safety of tenants, guests, or customers in a building from intruders and criminals. The owner of an apartment complex has a duty to ensure that only authorized individuals enter the property and limit safety risks to tenants. If an unauthorized individual enters an apartment building and assaults or otherwise harms a tenant, the landlord is likely liable.
Elements of a Negligent Security Lawsuit
A tenant who suffers injuries due to criminal activity that takes place inside an apartment building can file a negligent security lawsuit against the landlord if the incident was foreseeable and preventable. The plaintiff in a negligent security lawsuit will need to provide evidence that the landlord failed to take adequate or appropriate safety measures to prevent the claimed incident. This may include failing to install necessary security equipment such as electronic door locks and security cameras, failure to monitor the building’s parking facilities, or failure to address known security risks from prior incidents.
The plaintiff will need to prove that he or she sustained actual harm from the defendant’s negligent security, that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known about the risk of harm from the dangerous element in question, and that the criminal actions of the third party involved in the claim were a reasonably foreseeable risk. For example, if a door lock mechanism fails and the landlord does not fix it in a timely manner, an intruder could illegally enter the apartment building and harm a tenant. In such a situation, the landlord knew about the problem but did not correct it, and is therefore responsible for the tenant’s damages.
Foreseeability is one of the most important concepts in any negligent security case. A plaintiff will need to prove that the claimed incident was a foreseeable risk. For example, if a criminal third party physically assaulted and robbed a tenant in the apartment building’s parking lot, and there were five prior muggings in the lot within the past year, then the incident would likely qualify as foreseeable, and the landlord should have taken adequate steps to prevent future incidents.
Damages in a Negligent Security Lawsuit Against a Landlord
When a criminal third party injures a tenant on a landlord’s property, it is often difficult to locate the perpetrator. If the police manage to apprehend the offender, he or she will likely face criminal prosecution from the state and civil liability for the victim’s damages. However, this does not remove liability from the landlord. If the landlord bears responsibility for the incident in question, the plaintiff can secure compensation for medical expenses, property damages, pain and suffering, and lost income resulting from the incident.
Plaintiffs may also receive punitive damages if a landlord’s negligence exceeds the typical scope of negligence for similar cases. Juries award punitive damages based on the financial status of the defendant; wealthier defendants pay much more in punitive damages than defendants with minimal personal assets. If the police successfully arrest the third party who committed the crime, then the criminal and the landlord will likely share liability for the plaintiff’s claimed damages and the criminal may need to pay restitution, fines, and legal fees for the plaintiff.
Landlords can limit their liability for injuries caused to tenants by third parties by maintaining adequate and appropriate security measures for their properties and addressing security concerns as soon as they discover them. Landlords typically have the option of purchasing comprehensive general liability insurance that covers damages to tenants, but these policies are expensive to maintain. However, the best way to prevent negligent security lawsuits is to take measures to prevent them from happening in the first place, and doing everything possible to ensure the safety of tenants and lawful visitors in an apartment building.