Premises Liability In An Apartment Fire

Premises liability claims can stem from a wide range of incidents and problems. When an apartment fire claimed two lives and injured dozens of others in Colorado, the question arose as to whether the property manager of the building behaved negligently in allowing a resident with mental health issues to reside in the building. The man’s bizarre behavior culminated in his intentionally setting the tragic fire. Can a case of arson or other criminal act give way to a premises liability claim? The answer is yes.

Property owners, including apartment managers, restaurant owners, retail store owners, parking garage owners and others can be held liable for harm resulting from a criminal act in certain situations. Negligent security claims involve a determination of whether or not a particular harm was foreseeable. If a property owner is aware, or should be aware, of a risk to those on the property, it is that property owner’s duty to take steps to protect the public from harm.

Negligent security cases often arise around bars and restaurants where assaults and theft are common. A dark alley next to an establishment with a history of violence or other crime could invite trouble. Additional lighting or security cameras could be used by the property owner to reduce that risk. If a property owner fails to act, a person who is harmed by that negligence may have a claim for premises liability.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Injured Tenant Blames Managers for Arson Fire,” by Sam Reynolds, 15 April 2013