New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Failed Security, Personal Injury


November 29th, 2006

Failed Security Lawsuits: Why Building Owners Are Liable

This case from Missouri appeared in one of the jury verdict reporters I receive, and I think it illustrates well the issues presented when personal injury results from failed security. The issues are the same whether it occurs in Missouri, New York, or elsewhere:

Tenant attacked in hallway of apartment building: Failure to properly maintain premises: Rape: Emotional trauma: Settlement.

X.Y.Z., 24, was exiting her apartment when a man attacked her and forced her back inside. He robbed and raped X.Y.Z. and burglarized her apartment. X.Y.Z. suffered emotional trauma and now is afraid to be alone in her apartment or in crowds of strangers…

X.Y.Z. sued the owner and operator of her apartment building. Suit alleged the key-operated lock to the back door did not function properly, allowing individuals without keys to gain access to the building. Plaintiff claimed defendants were aware of the malfunctioning lock but failed to repair it.

Defendants denied they were responsible for the attack and contended they had no knowledge of the defective lock. Plaintiff countered with maintenance work orders that showed problems with the back door lock two months before she was attacked.

The parties settled before trial for $700,000, with an additional $15,000 to be donated to the local rape crisis center on plaintiff’s behalf.

While building owners are not the attackers in these personal injury cases, the owners may be liable for having failed in the duty to provide security. If there is a broken door lock in an apartment building in a high crime area, for example, and they know about it but do nothing, it is not a question of if someone will be attacked, but when. Since the owners owe a duty of care to the residents, if they act negligently and breach that duty, they would be liable for damages to the individual.

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