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By: Wes Jackson
Unknown assailants killed a 33-year-old father of three during an apartment robbery in 2015. Earlier this month, a Clayton County jury determined the apartment complex where the robbery occurred is liable for half of the $20 million verdict in the father’s wrongful death action.
The jury apportioned 50% of the fault for the shooting against the owners and managers of Bradford Ridge Apartments in Forest Park, Georgia. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that the apartment was located in a high-crime area and had lax security, which consisted of “courtesy officers” who patrol the grounds twice a day in exchange for a free apartment unit. Plaintiffs also pointed to the lack of significant changes in security measures after the murder of a 13 year old just two years before. The jury apportioned the other 50% of the $20 million verdict against the unknown shooters.
The verdict goes to show that apartment owners, managers, and their insurers continue to be targets for big judgements and could be left holding the bag after violent crime occurs on their premises, especially where the management knows of similar instances of violence on the premises in the recent past. This is true despite Georgia law allowing juries to apportion damages to non-parties that plaintiffs did not sue.
At least in theory, owners and managers can avoid these huge verdicts by matching instances of crime on the premises with new security measures. But one question remains: how much extra security will satisfy a Georgia jury?