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By: Rachael Slimmon
On June 21, 2021, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed whether a property owner can be held liable for damages arising from a nuisance claim under the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. Star Residential, LLC et al. v. Hernandez resolved an issue based on a statute seemingly written to penalize gang members who commit crimes, but which lower courts interpreted to create liability exposure for property owners, mainly at apartment complexes, where alleged gang members were located.
After Manuel Hernandez was shot outside his apartment, he sued the owner and operator of the apartment complex and asserted, among other things, a nuisance claim pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 16-15-1 et seq. (the “Gang Act”).
The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals to find that a private individual cannot maintain a public nuisance claim for abatement or damages under the Gang Act. Further, a private individual can only assert a claim under the Gang Act “against the actors who proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries by reason of their criminal gang activity.” In other words, there is no cause of action under the Gang Act against a property owner just because gang activity happens on the property. This decision impacts a pending lawsuit by the property owner’s carrier who is seeking a declaration of no coverage for this claim.
Property owners in Georgia may still, of course, face liability for acts that occur on their premises, but they will not face liability, or its associated punitive and treble damages, under the Gang Act.
Read the entire opinion here: https://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/s20g1214.pdf