Fatal Shooting at Lexington Apartment Complex

On Behalf of | Feb 12, 2021 | Injuries, Negligent Security, Premises Liability

Investigators are still looking for clues about a deadly shooting at an apartment complex on Alumni Drive.

Officers responding to a suspicious activities call found a 26-year-old man who had been shot to death. Officers know the approximate time of the shooting, but they have no leads in the case.

Legal Responsibility

Landlords have a number of health and safety responsibilities. They must take care of serious running water or electrical issues straightaway. Landlords must also provide secure locks on doors. Furthermore, as part of their safety responsibilities, they must create a safe environment. Unfortunately, government inspectors rarely enforce this duty. Instead, that burden falls to Lexington personal injury attorneys.

The safe environment duty applies to both residents and non-residents. The exact nature of this duty usually depends on the relationship between the victim and landlord.

Apartment tenants are invitees. These individuals sign leases and pay rent. So, they have permission to be on the property and their presence benefits the owner. Due to the closeness of this relationship, landlords have a duty of reasonable care. They must take affirmative steps, such as an initial safety review and ongoing safety inspections, to ensure invitee safety. Furthermore, their safety plans must be flexible and react to new problems which arise.

Apartment tenant guests are typically licensees. Although these individuals have permission to be on the property, that presence does not benefit the landlord. So, landlords must only warn about latent (hidden) security defects. Examples include:

  • Burned-out security lights,
  • Broken locks,
  • Non-working cameras,
  • Absent security staff, and
  • Broken gates.

A few victims are trespassers. These individuals have no permission to be there and their presence does not benefit the landlord. Therefore, the landlord has no legal responsibilities toward them, at least in most cases.

Factual Responsibility

Legal duty alone is insufficient. Victim/plaintiffs must also prove that the owner knew, or should have known, about security issues at the property.

These issues usually involve lack of security. Largely depending on the foreseeability of harm, as outlined below, the landlord might be able to let people come and go almost as they please. Or, the law might require the landlord to place the property on lockdown and hire armed security guards to enforce the rules. Most likely, the level of responsibility is somewhere in between these two extremes.

Direct evidence of actual knowledge is sometimes available. For example, the aforementioned security evaluation might recommend certain measures which, probably for cost reasons, the landlord does not implement. Such direct evidence usually surfaces during a lawsuit’s discovery phase.

Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) is available as well. Such proof usually involves the time notice rule. Assume a security camera is offline. If the malfunction occurred recently, the landlord probably knew nothing about it. However, the longer the camera is not working, the more likely it is that the landlord should have known about it and should have fixed it.

Victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not.

Foreseeability

In many premises liability claims, foreseeability is not much of an issue. It’s always foreseeable that a dog, even a pleasant dog, might bite someone. Negligent security matters are much different. Many claims hinge on this issue.

“Foreseeable” does not mean inevitable. It does not even mean likely. Rather, foreseeable basically means that an event was predictable. It is foreseeable that a driver might cause a crash. It’s even foreseeable that the car might run off the road and strike a pedestrian. But a medical mistake at the hospital where responders transport the victim is not foreseeable.

Back in the day, third-party crimes, like muggings or shootings, usually broke the chain of foreseeability. Today, the law is different. Landlords could be legally responsible for third-party actions depending on several foreseeability factors, such as:

  • Prior similar incidents at that location,
  • The area’s reputation as a “high crime area,”
  • Nature of the property (e.g. convenience stores are more likely robbery targets than beauty salons),
  • Prior similar incidents in the neighborhood, and
  • Nature of the occupants (e.g. have there been fights on the property).

Damages in a negligent security case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Landlords have a duty to keep their tenants safe. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers