Under the legal theory of premises liability, business owners have a general duty to ensure that the area accessible to customers is kept free from unreasonably dangerous conditions. When a business owner fails to take the necessary precautions to either remedy or warn visitors of a known harm, the business owner may be held liable for any injuries caused as a result.
One of the key issues in premises liability cases is whether the defendant landowner knew or should have known that the dangerous condition existed at the time of the plaintiff’s accident. If it is determined that the business owner was oblivious to the harm and that the lack of knowledge was reasonable under the circumstances, the plaintiff’s premises liability case will likely fail. A recent case involving a tragic shooting at an apartment complex illustrates how a defendant landowner’s lack of knowledge of the dangerous condition causing the plaintiff’s injury can be fatal to a plaintiff’s case.
Mitchell v. Ridgewood East Apartments: The Facts
Mitchell was visiting his aunt over New Year’s Eve, who lived at the defendant apartment complex. After midnight, Mitchell’s aunt went to bed, but Mitchell remained in the common areas of the complex, talking to other residents and guests. At around 2:55 a.m., Mitchell’s aunt heard shots and ran outside to find that Mitchell had been shot in the head.
At around this same time, she saw Collins running down the stairs with a handgun in his hand. Mitchell’s aunt began yelling at Collins, asking him what he had done. Mitchell was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Mitchell’s family members then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the apartment complex, claiming that it was negligent in failing to provide any security over New Year’s Eve.
Both the plaintiffs and the defendant had experts testify. The plaintiffs’ expert claimed that, given the nature of the holiday and past incidents involving late-night partying and drug use, it was foreseeable that a problem could arise, and the defendant should have contracted to have some security present. The defendant’s expert testified that there was no way that the defendant apartment complex could have known that Collins was dangerous, since he had never been involved in an incident at the complex.
The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the elements of their case, and the appellate court affirmed. The court explained that, in order for a premises liability case to be successful, the defendant had to be on notice that the dangerous condition existed. The court explained that, since Collins did not live at the complex, and he had never been involved in any incident at the complex, there was no way that the defendant could have known he was a danger.
Have You Been Involved in a Washington, D.C. Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a violent or negligent act that caused you harm, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the specifics of your situation, there may be more than one potentially liable party from whom to seek relief. The skilled Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience representing injured clients and know what it takes to be successful in all types of personal injury cases, including those arising from intentional, violent acts. Cal 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
The Summary Judgment Standard in Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 16, 2016
Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case Allowed to Proceed Under Strict Liability Theory, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 9, 2016