Use the Peephole

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Q: My apartment is situated in a large complex.  The doorbell rang.  Thinking it was a friend, I opened the door without first looking through the peephole or asking who it was.  A stranger forced his way in and dragged me to the bedroom.  He took out his knife.

A: Although your opening the door without looking through the peephole, or inquiring, may indicate some contributory negligence, it is highly unlikely that this will be deemed an ‘independent intervening act’ that absolves the landlord entirely.

Landlords have a common-law duty to take minimal precautions to protect tenants from foreseeable harm, including foreseeable criminal conduct by a stranger.  A landlord has a duty to minimize the foreseeable danger from criminal acts when past experience alerts it to the likelihood of such criminal conduct.

Does knowledge of criminal activities occurring within a housing complex make injury in any one of the buildings foreseeable?  As you realize, this depends on the location, nature and extent of those previous criminal activities and their similarity, proximity or other relationship to the crime in question.

Your attorney will need to show that the landlord negligently failed to exclude the stranger.  Had the stranger been involved in other criminal acts in the complex?  Had he previously been arrested on the premises?  Did the landlord already have an arrest photo of him?  Much discovery is needed to determine how foreseeable a risk this stranger was and what measures the landlord had in place to deal with creatures like him.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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