1. List the three areas a court must review before imposing liability on a landlord for a criminal act by...
1. List the three areas a court must review before imposing liability on a landlord for a criminal act by a third party on a tenant.
2. What lessons on security precautions should landlords take away from the decision in this case?
Arnel Management Company manages the Pheasant Ridge Apartments. Pheasant Ridge is a 620-unit, multibuilding apartment complex with over 1,000 residents, situated on 20.59 acres in Rowland Heights, California. Before the gated entrance to the complex are two parking lots; one is a visitor lot, and the other is the parking lot for the leasing office, located on the other side of the road. There are two security gates just past the parking lot. The gates are remotecontrol operated. Most of the property’s parking spaces lie behind these gates by the apartments.
Yu Fang Tan and his wife, Chun Kuei Chang, and their child moved into Pheasant Ridge in July 2002 and received one assigned parking space. Tenants could pay an additional fee for a garage, but Tan chose not to rent one. Tenants with a second car could park in unassigned parking spaces located throughout the complex, or in one of the two lots—as long as the car was removed from the leasing office lot before 7:00 A.M.
At around 11:30 P.M. on December 28, 2002, Tan returned home and tried to find an unassigned open parking space because his wife had parked the family’s other car in their assigned space. Unable to locate an available space, he parked in the leasing office parking lot outside the gated area. As Tan was parking his car, an unidentified man approached him and asked for help. When Tan opened his window, the man pointed a gun and told him to get out of the car because the man wanted it. Tan responded, “Okay. Let me park my car first.” But then the car rolled a little, and at that point, the assailant shot Tan in the neck. The incident rendered Tan a quadriplegic. Tan and Chang filed suit against Arnel for their negligent management of the complex as well as its policy of not providing sufficient parking inside the gated area and of charging more for such additional spaces. The trial court granted judgment on the pleadings for Arnel, and Tan and Chang appealed.
ALDRICH, J.… At the hearing, plaintiffs’ expert, UCLA Sociology Professor Jack Katz, looked at police reports, complaints to the police, property management reports, and records of Pheasant Ridge’s security service, PacWest Security Services. Professor Katz found 10 incidents he viewed as being “particularly significant warning signs,” of which three involved “prior violent incidents.” All of the incidents involved a sudden attack without warning, late at night, by a stranger on someone who was on the ungated portion of the premises.
The first example of a violent incident occurred just under two years before Plaintiffs attack and involved an assault with a deadly weapon. A guard, who was patrolling on his bicycle around 1:30 A.M., saw someone standing by the maintenance garage. The guard approached the subject and asked him what he was doing. The subject replied he was waiting for a friend. When the guard asked for identification, the subject retrieved an unknown object from his pocket and swung it at the guard. The guard raised his arm in self-protection and received an 1.5-inch slash on his forearm.
The second example occurred about a year before plaintiffs attack and before the existing gates at the back of the entrance road were installed. The assailants carjacked a car in Santa Monica with what the victim perceived to be a gun. Finding Pheasant Ridge “a good place to rob somebody” because there was no gate to impede their escape, as they told police later, the assailants came onto the property and robbed a tenant at his parking spot. The assailants committed the robbery by blocking the tenant’s car, smashing him on the head, and demanding his valuables. They took the tenant’s cell phone and other property.
The third violent incident occurred at 3:55 A.M., nine months before the attack on plaintiff. The incident was “also a violent attack, apparently, by strangers in late nighttime in a parking lot,” and may have actually been in the leasing office lot. The assailant suddenly and viciously attacked the tenant in the face causing profuse bleeding. Professor Katz explained that these three prior incidents all involved “strangers coming in late night, suddenly becoming violent against people they don’t know in ungated parking areas.” Professor Katz opined that these three incidents “show that the probability is foreseeable here that people on this property will be ……………….
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