When you are injured as a result of inadequate security

On behalf of Tracy Teiger

When you take a walk from your apartment to the convenience store next door, you should expect that the apartment complex and the convenience store each would have adequate security measures in place. Unfortunately, all too often that is not the case. The recent case of Double View Ventures, LLC v. Polite by the Georgia Court of Appeals considered just this circumstance.

A path that was not safe

A resident of an apartment complex decided to go to the convenience store adjacent to the apartments to get a soda and a pack of cigarettes. To get there he followed a well-worn dirt path through a wooden fence that served as a boundary between the two properties. The fence had an opening and the residents would walk back and forth to the convenience store. On that evening, as he was returning to the complex, the resident was assaulted by two people hiding behind the fence. The pair threw bleach in the victim's face and, as he began to run, they shot him in the back. The victim suffered serious and life-long injuries as a result. The two assailants were never found.

The victim sued the apartment complex, alleging negligence in keeping the apartment complex safe. He claimed that his injuries were directly caused by the lack of adequate security in light of the dozens of armed robberies and aggravated assaults at the complex in the three years prior to this incident. Indeed, he alleged a similar incident happened two weeks earlier.

But, as it turned out, the wooden fence was actually 12 feet on the convenience store property and there were many armed robberies and assaults at and inside the convenience store that should have put the convenience store owners on alert to the dangerous conditions.

Who is liable?

So, who is liable for the injuries to this victim? The answer is maybe all three, the apartment complex, the convenience store and the victim himself. Georgia law provides for apportionment-of-fault, by which a trier of fact divides damages between those responsible. If the injured party is to some degree responsible for his or her own injuries, the jury determines the percentage of fault of the plaintiff, and the judge thereafter reduces the total amount of damages awarded accordingly. If, as in this case, there is more than one party who may be responsible for the injuries to the victim, the jury divides the remaining damages according the percentage of fault. In this case, the appeals court found that the trial court erred in not submitting the possibility of the convenience store liability to the jury. As between the apartment complex and the injured resident, the jury found the victim 13 percent at fault and the apartment complex 87 percent.

Liability for injuries suffered because of negligent or inadequate security may not always be clear; the representation of an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney may be essential.

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