Near-Fatal Shooting at Apartment Complex

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2020 | Injuries, Negligent Security

Police are looking for a suspect who shot a Lexington man during a botched robbery in an apartment complex parking lot. 

The incident occurred at a Spangler Drive apartment complex near Wilson Downing Road. Shortly after midnight, officers responding to a shots-fired disturbance call found a 30-year-old man who had been shot during an apparent robbery. According to investigators, the evildoer accosted the man in the parking lot. It’s unclear if the would-be robber was lying in wait. Emergency responders rushed the victim to a nearby hospital.

The suspect drove a white Honda that had an Ohio license plate.

Duty of Care

Premises liability describes the legal responsibility regarding preventable accidents which occur away from home. Falls, dog bites, and swimming pool drownings are the most prominent examples. This category also includes negligent security issues. Property owners, including apartment complex owners, have a duty to prevent crimes, and not just things like falls or dog bites.

In Kentucky, the extent of this duty usually depends on the relationship between the landowner and the victim, as follows:

  • Invitee: Apartment tenants have permission to be on the land, and their presence benefits the owner. Shoppers are in the same category. Arguably, so are social guests. The benefit is simply noneconomic. In these situations, landowners have a duty of reasonable care. That’s one of the highest standards of care in Kentucky.
  • Licensee: Landowners have a lesser duty if the victim had permission to be on the land, but the owner did not benefit. An apartment tenant’s guest is usually a licensee. The lesser duty is to warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects. In the negligent security context, a latent defect could be a malfunctioning security camera or a burnt-out parking lot light.
  • Trespassers: Generally, landowners owe no duty to people who have no permission to be on the land and who do not benefit the owner. The evildoers themselves in negligent security cases are almost always trespassers. Some exceptions, like the attractive nuisance rule, protect some child trespasser victims in some cases.

The judge usually decides the extent of the defendant’s duty, since it’s a question of law. The judge then instructs jurors accordingly. Knowledge, or the lack thereof, is usually a question of fact for the jury.

Establishing Knowledge

Landowners are only responsible for premises liability damages if they knew, or should have known, about the inadequate security or other hazard which caused the victim/plaintiff’s injury. Frequently, in negligent security claims, knowledge and foreseeability overlap. More on that below.

Lexington personal injury attorneys usually uncover direct evidence of actual knowledge during the discovery process, provided they know the proper questions to ask and the proper documents to request. Such evidence includes internal emails about nearby criminal activity, unpaid repair estimates, and evaluations which indicated a lack of security.

Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) is also admissible. Such evidence could include media, police, or witness reports detailing nearby criminal activity.

In both these situations, victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Therefore, a little proof goes a long way in these claims.

Proving Foreseeability

Foreseeability is often the most important element in a negligent security claim. In a nutshell, “foreseeability” is not synonymous with inevitable or even likely. Rather, events are foreseeable if they are possible.

Prior similar acts on that property are the best proof of foreseeability. The prior event need not be exactly like the current event. In this context, a parking lot fight between two drunk friends is roughly the same thing as a botched robbery. 

Other evidence of foreseeability includes prior similar incidents in the area, the nature of the property, and the overall crime rate. A jewelry store robbery is not the same thing as a parking lot robbery, but the two events are similar. Furthermore, robberies are more likely to happen outside a posh Beverly Hills high-rise than in a West L.A. public housing project. And, if the neighborhood is a high crime area, that fact is relevant as well.

The same low burden of proof applies in this area. So, if there is any evidence of foreseeability, that’s probably enough.

Damages in a negligent security claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.

Landowners might be financially responsible for injuries which occur on their property. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We routinely handle matters in Fayette County and nearby jurisdictions.