A man is in custody after he shot a person in an apartment complex parking lot multiple times in the chest and torso, allegedly in self-defense.
Police responding to a disturbance call at the Campus Pointe Apartments in Bowling Green found 25-year-old Kevin Morris lying in the parking lot. After receiving information from witnesses, officers detained 25-year-old Pedro Alfaro in connection with the shooting. He was initially charged with aggravated assault. After Morris died, authorities upgraded these charges to muder.
Alfaro admitted to fighting with someone in the parking lot and shooting the person. In a subsequent search, officers found two handguns in Alfaro’s vehicle. One of them was a caliber match to the weapon which killed Morris.
Security Standard of Care
Negligence is essentially a lack of care. So, the first step, and often the most complex step, in a negligence claim is establishing the standard of care. In terms of security at a semi-public place, like a restaurant, movie theater, or apartment complex, the standard often varies significantly.
Typically, history and combustibility are the two most important factors. A history of personal security violations, such as assaults, increases the standard of care. This history is also relevant to foreseeability, as outlined below. Combustibility usually refers to the environment. Sports bars that encourage rowdy fan behavior are highly combustible environments. A Sunday morning church service is probably the direct opposite.
Depending on these and other factors, the standard of care could be no security at all, passive security, like cameras and lights, or active security, like armed or unarmed guards. If the facility’s security fell below the applicable standard, and that failure substantially contributed to the injury, the facility could be liable for damages, even though a third party actually caused the injury.
Incidentally, criminal defenses, like self-defense or an unreliable informer’s tip, are largely irrelevant in negligent security claims. The focus is on the owner’s security, or lack thereof, as opposed to an individual’s actions.
The standard of care varies in different locations, and it also varies depending on the status of the victim.
In Kentucky, apartment tenants are invitees. These individuals provide a benefit to the owner (they pay rent) and they have permission to be on the land. Because the relationship is close, the landowner had a duty of care to make the premises reasonably safe. This duty extends to common areas, such as parking lots.
Apartment guests, especially social guests, are usually licensees. These people have direct or indirect permission to be on the land, but there is no direct benefit to the landowner. Because the relationship is more distant, the duty is lower. Most landowners must only warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects, such as burned-out security lights or non-working cameras.
Landowners usually owe no duty to adult trespassers. The attractive nuisance doctrine usually protects child trespassers, especially if the apartment complex had a playground, swimming pool, or other attractive nuisance. Other exceptions include the frequent trespasser doctrine, which in this context could mean drivers who cut across the parking lot.
On a related note, victim/plaintiffs must also establish knowledge of the hazard. The evidence on this point could be direct or circumstantial. Victim/plaintiffs must use this evidence to establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Negligent Security and Foreseeability
Finally, owners are only liable for negligent security-related injuries if the injury was foreseeable. Legally, the f-word does not mean inevitable or likely. Rather, something is foreseeable if it is possible. Most car crashes do not involve pedestrian injuries. But it is foreseeable that a crash could send a car careening into a pedestrian on the street.
To determine foreseeability in negligent security claims, most Fayette County judges look at a number of factors, such as:
- Prior similar incidents in the area,
- Status as a “high crime area,”
- Prior similar incidents at that location, and
- Nature of the business (this factor relates back to history and combustibility).
Damages in a negligent security claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Negligent security victims could be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.