Under Florida law, landlords have a duty to protect others on the property from acts or omissions that are foreseeable and proximately cause another person’s injuries. When a landlord breaches this duty, the injured party may have a legal claim under the theory of premises liability. Common examples include slip-and fall accidents from wet or slippery floors, defective stairs, or other improperly maintain common areas. A recent case before the Florida Supreme Court addressed another area where landlords have legal duty to residents: to protect residents from security issues.
Legal Duty of Landlord’s to Protect Residents from Security Issues
In the case of Shandalyn Sanders vs. ERP Operating Limited Partnership, two residents at a Florida apartment complex were shot to death by unknown assailants inside their apartment. There were no signs of forced entry. The complex had a gated front entrance. Water surrounded approximately 70 percent of the complex, and a wall or fence surrounded the remainder. The complex had a policy of providing reasonable lighting, locks, and peepholes. The apartments contained alarm systems, which the residents could activate. Several years earlier, there were prior criminal incidents when the gate had been broken.
The victims’ families’ filed a lawsuit against the landlord alleging the defendant’s negligence was a proximate cause of the deaths. The lawsuit alleged the defendant did not maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition by failing to: (1) maintain the front gate; (2) have adequate security; (3) prevent dangerous persons from gaining access to the premises; and (4) protect and warn residents of dangerous conditions and criminal acts.
In 2009, a jury found the landlord 40 percent comparatively negligent and awarded the families $4.5 million in damages. On appeal, however, the court reversed the decision and stated that “[w]ithout proof of how the assailants gained entry into the apartment, [Sanders] simply could not prove causation.”
The Florida Supreme Court recently upheld the jury’s verdict. The Supreme Court held that evidence presented could support a finding that landlord more likely than not substantially contributed to the deaths. In this regard, the Supreme Court stated that “[a] reasonable jury could have determined that [landlord’s] failure to maintain the security gate and failure to have the courtesy officer visible probably allowed the assailant(s) to get to the decedents’ door more easily without being detected.”
Contact the Florida Personal Injury Attorneys at Reed & Reed
Have your or someone you know suffered an injury as a result of another person’s negligence? If you have then it is important to contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney who can help you understand your legal rights. At Reed & Reed, our Florida personal injury attorneys have extensive experience helping victims in a variety of personal injury accidents, including car and motorcycle accidents, premises liability, and dog bites.
Contact us today for a free consultation and initial case evaluation. From our office in Brandon, we help clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida. Contact Reed & Reed for a free consultation.