Landlord failed to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its tenants, lawsuit says.
A parent, whose daughter was shot and killed two years ago in front of their apartment in Northwest Jacksonville, last week filed a complaint in the 4th Judicial Circuit.
The suit alleges that the landlord failed to exercise reasonable care for the safety of its tenants, invitees and the public.
The complaint seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial.
Pajcic & Pajcic partner Curry Pajcic, who is not involved in the case, has represented many plaintiffs in similar premises liability actions.
“We come across them, sadly, with some frequency,” he said.
Negligent security law, Pajcic said, applies to every property owner, in that they owe a duty of reasonable care to people who are invited on their property.
That can include apartment complexes, condominium developments and businesses such as hotels, stores, bars and restaurants.
He said a case will hinge on whether the property owner provided a reasonable level of security to residents or customers.
“The duty of reasonable care can be different under different circumstances. Every situation is different and the law is made by a jury that decides what is reasonable care,” Pajcic said.
In the case of a rented residence, reasonable care can be related to the level of crime that occurs in the neighborhood, and other factors such as locks, fences and security cameras or guards.
“It really comes down to common sense,” he said.
Pajcic said a few years ago, he represented plaintiffs whose 13-year old daughter was fatally wounded in the family’s apartment when shots were fired in their apartment complex.
The firm’s investigation revealed that the complex had been the subject of numerous calls to police including burglary, armed robbery, battery and two incidents of bullets shot into apartments in the three months before his clients’ daughter was killed.
The investigation also determined that the complex had no access or perimeter control and no security guard or off-duty police officer.
In addition, the owners had ignored a resident manager’s request for fencing and gates and residents weren’t warned of possible danger.
The defense settled for $1.75 million at early mediation.
Pajcic said that while a settlement or jury award is intended to compensate for a specific loss, when premises liability actions are pursued in the court, there also can be a communitywide benefit because results of lawsuits can cause others to examine themselves.
“All too often, corporations don’t hear until you speak their language, and their language is money,” he said.
“When they hear about a significant lawsuit, or a verdict or a settlement against their competitors, they think about their own pocketbook. They decide an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”