Florida Apartment Shooting Generates Questions of Landlord Liability

Recently in Florida, three people were shot while walking in an apartment’s public space by an unknown number of suspects. Two of three died from their injuries and one remained wounded. The apartment is in a gated residence. Crime in apartment complexes or other public spaces are common, and accountability and relief does not just come from the perpetrator of the crime, but from the owner of the premises.

A landlord can be held liable for a crime that occurs on his or her property by a third party if the crime is considered foreseeable and if the crime would have been considered preventable, had the owner put certain precautions in place. Much of the liability hinges on the relationship of the owner to the person injured on the property. If the injured party was a tenant or a guest of the tenant, or someone else invited onto the property by the owner, then the landlord has a duty to maintain a reasonably safe condition. They must also warn of any dangers that these same parties may not know themselves. However, if the people on the property were not invited, then the landlord does not have a duty to guard against third party crimes.

Florida courts have considered what is foreseeable. If other prior crimes of a similar nature have occurred on the premises, then that type of crime is considered foreseeable. (See Prieto v. Miami-Dade County, 803 So. 2d 780 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 2001)). Also, if the area is a “high crime” area, where similar crimes occurred in temporal and geographic proximity to the apartment, then liability for a crime on the premises could be created.

Some Florida courts have extended beyond similar crimes or crimes that have occurred in a specific geographic proximity. The Fourth District Court of Appeals has allowed evidence of dissimilar crimes and the Third District allowed evidence of crimes in an area outside of the premises so long as they weren’t ‘substantial distances away’. (See Holiday Inns, Inc. v. Shelburne, 576 So. 2d 322, 331 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 1991) and Lomillo v. Howard Johnsons Co., 471 So. 2d 1296, 1297 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985).)

Landlords are liable for accidents and injuries beyond criminal acts that occur on the premises. If an accident occurs because of damaged property or negligently maintained structures, then the landlord is also liable to any occupant or other invited guest. A landlord must maintain safe and healthy premises, and should not leave common spaces in disrepair. Poorly lit hallways or slippery stairs may contribute to a fall which can lead to expensive medical care.

If you have been injured while on the premises of a rental property or other public building the South Florida premises liability attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the experience it takes for you to find the compensation you need for medical bills and compensation for other pain and suffering. Our South Florida offices are located in three convenient locations for you. If you would like a free, confidential conversation contact us online or call (877) 448-8585.

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