Victims of Sexual Assault at an Apartment Complex May Have a Premise Liability Claim

April 15, 2015 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Victims of Sexual Assault at an Apartment Complex May Have a Premise Liability Claim Florida Statute § 83.51(2)(a) specifically requires a landlord to make reasonable provision for locks and keys and for the safe condition of common areas. A landlord's violation of the act is at least evidence of negligence. Bennett v. Mattison, 382 So.2d 873 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980). If the owner of the property fails to reasonable maintain the safety of the premises, they may be liable if an intruder rapes a tenant. Additionally, the owners are liable if the type of harm suffered by the tenant was of a kind reasonably foreseeable as a result of the landlord's negligence in not providing adequate security to prevent the unauthorized entry of the rapists. The four elements of negligence are (1) a legal duty owed by defendant to plaintiff, (2) breach of that duty by defendant, (3) an injury to plaintiff legally caused by defendant's breach, and (4) damages as a result of the injury. In general, the landlord's duty is to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. As a general principle, an apartment owner has no duty to safeguard an invitee on his premises from a rape by an individual over whom the landowner has no control unless the rape is reasonably foreseeable. E.g., Relyea v. State, 385 So.2d 1378 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980). Additionally, to require such a duty upon the an apartment complex owner, the invitee must assert and prove that the complex owner had actual or constructive knowledge of previous similar acts—attacks or rapes—committed upon invitees on the property because a landlord should not be required to take precautions against an unexpected attack which the landlord has no reason to expect. Id. at 1383. However, the foreseeability of a sexual assault is not the only basis for the landlord's liability to the tenant regarding attacks committed on the leased premises. See Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Avenue Apartment Corp., 439 F.2d 477, 481–85 (D.C.Cir.1970). Florida case law has acknowledges a property-owner's duty to the tenant for facts where an landholder has undertaken to provide security protection by contract provisions, having made representations concerning security to the tenant, or having abolished past security practices that provided tenants with protection from criminal attacks. Patterson v. Deeb, 472 So. 2d 1210, 1215 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1985). In Patterson v. Deeb, a woman was tragically raped on the premises of her apartment complex. Id. The court stated that an apartment complex was liable for a rape that was not foreseeable because the complex breached its duty under Florida Statute § 83.51(2)(a) that requires a landlord to make reasonable provision for locks and keys and for the safe condition of common areas. Id. By not appropriately maintaining the security of the premises, the court ruled that this breach of duty was a proximate cause to the rape of the victim. Id. The court held that: (1) landlords had mandatory duty to provide adequate locks and keys both for outside of apartment building and for tenant's bathroom across the hall from her apartment; (2) landlords' actual or constructive knowledge of prior similar criminal acts committed on the premises was not required to hold landlords liable; (3) allegations that tenant had complained to landlords in the past and that neighborhood had high level of criminal activity, along with landlords' alleged violations of statutory duty to provide adequate security, stated cause of action in negligence. Id. If you or a loved one has been the target of a sexual assault, the attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, can help. Our staff of knowledgeable attorneys will work to bring those liable for the attack to justice. For more information on sexual assaults committed on rental properties, or to schedule a free confidential consultation, please contact the skilled attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. Please be assured that your confidentiality is our highest priority. Contact us today to speak with a Florida sexual assault attorney, (727)-451-6900. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33756 727-451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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