Property owners have a responsibility to ensure their premises are safe for lawful guests.
When they are put on notice of a problem or when an issue is foreseeable, they have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to address it. If they do not, they may be held liable for any injuries that result – even if they aren’t directly responsible for it or a criminal act was involved.
That was the case recently in Guo v. TWC Seventy-Eight et al., the case of a community college student and Chinese immigrant to Lehigh Acres who was shot and killed while delivering food to an apartment complex in Fort Myers. The 23-year-old had moved to the U.S. just three years earlier, and was working at his family’s restaurant to put himself through school.
Following the shooting, the victim’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Tampa-based apartment complex, alleging negligent security for failure to address dangerous conditions that resulted in her son’s foreseeable death.
Pending a civil trial in Lee County Circuit Court, the case was recently settled out-of-court for $3.25 million.
The case hinged on holding a third-party business liable for the criminal act of someone else. It’s somewhat of a strange legal concept for a lot of people to grasp. But it comes down to the fact that companies that provide housing owe a duty of care to residents and guests to make sure that property is reasonably safe.
What was key to this case was showing a long history of violent crime at the apartment complex that had gone unaddressed. In the two years prior to this victim’s death, there were dozens of reported assaults, batteries, robberies, carjackings and burglaries. There was even a homicide two years prior.
Despite all of of this, the apartment complex operators did nothing to improve safety at the site. They didn’t install security cameras. They didn’t hire extra security guards. They didn’t request additional police patrols. They never warned guests or tenants of criminal attacks.
In fact, unbeknownst to the victim or his family, many other restaurants deemed this particular apartment complex too dangerous for home deliveries.
Defendants, whose website describes the property as “kid-friendly,” argued there was no way they could have foreseen this happening. Off-duty police officers were hired to patrol the site for a handful of hours every day, and defense argued this was sufficient in light of the previously-reported incidents.
Two teenagers were initially arrested in connection with the homicide. A father of one of the teen’s had ordered the food that brought the victim to the site. However, a grand jury declined to indict for lack of evidence.
That made this civil case especially important to the family. Of course, no amount of money would bring back their loved one. But so often in these cases, it’s not about money. It’s about holding people and businesses accountable when they fail to provide reasonable protections to prevent foreseeable harm.
Trial was initially scheduled for March, but was then postponed until April. Settlement talks, which had stalled in the beginning, resumed as the trial date approached and an agreement was reached just days before.
If you have been injured in Fort Myers, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Family of delivery man killed in 2012 to receive $3 million, April 16, 2015, By Melissa Montoya, The News-Press
More Blog Entries:
Cox v. Wal-Mart – Dangerous Condition Forms Basis for Premises Liability Claim, June 24, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog