In a recent case in front of a Georgia appellate court, a man filed a premises liability claim against the property management company that managed his apartment complex after he was shot when his home was burglarized. However, in the case of George v. Hercules Real Estate Services, Inc., the court affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the property management company.
According to the facts as recounted in the most recent court opinion, the plaintiff moved into an Atlanta apartment in November 2010. On June 11, 2011, the plaintiff’s apartment was burglarized between midnight and 2:00 a.m. The property management company repaired the front door and installed a metal burglar guard. The plaintiff also bought a gun after the incident for protection. On July 27, 2011, the man was home with a friend when someone knocked on his door. He looked outside but could only see that someone was outside, and he could not see who it was. He opened the door and propped his foot against it, but a second person appeared, and the two forced their way into the man’s apartment. The plaintiff shot at the intruders, but they fired back, and the plaintiff was shot four times.
The plaintiff alleged the company was negligent in failing to keep the premises in proper repair, failing to provide adequate security, and failing to keep the premises safe. In support of his claim, he provided evidence that there had been prior crimes at the apartment complex before this incident occurred.
The Court’s Decision
The court found the property management company was entitled to summary judgment on all of the plaintiff’s claims. The company showed that it had installed a monitored security alarm equipped with a panic button in each unit, had security guards at different times on every day of the week, had installed exterior security cameras around the property, had an emergency number available 24/7, had put up an entry gate, and had added community and police presence in the complex.
The court explained that the plaintiff did not present any evidence that any further security measures would have prevented the shooting. Furthermore, the plaintiff voluntarily opened his door to a stranger after midnight. As a result, there was no evidence that the property management company caused the shooting. Accordingly, the court found the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence the company acted negligently and dismissed the claim.
In Georgia, there are four elements to a negligence claim: a duty owed to the plaintiff to protect them against an unreasonable risk of harm, a breach of that duty, a legally attributable causal connection between the conduct and the injury, and a loss that resulted from the breach.
Generally, the plaintiff has the burden to prove all four elements in a negligence claim. That means that the plaintiff has to present evidence that would allow someone to reasonably conclude that it is more likely than not that the defendant had a duty and breached the duty, and there is a sufficient connection to the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a mere possibility that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injuries is insufficient to sustain a negligence action, as was the case above.
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See More Posts:
Family Injured in Car Accident Barred from Challenging Inconsistent Damages Awards, Due to Failure to Object to Alleged Error at Trial, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, December 29, 2016.
Georgia Court of Appeals Finds in Plaintiff’s Favor in Nursing Home Slip-and-Fall Case, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, January 10, 2017.