Florida Supreme Court Upholds $4.5 Million Award for Broken Security Gate
If you were a victim of a crime in your apartment complex, you might think that your only option is to go after the perpetrator– and if they’re not caught, you might think you are out of options. In Florida, you can also seek rightful compensation from an apartment complex that failed to do its duty to keep you safe. This March, the Florida Supreme Court stood up for tenants harmed by landlord’s lax security measures.
A Broken Gate, A Double Murder
In Plantation, Florida, two siblings lived together in an apartment building. The brother worked all summer to save money as he prepared for his last year of high school. The sister took some time away from her studies at college to care for her newborn child. They had lived there a year. They presumably felt safe. However, unfortunately– and fatally– there was a gap in the complex’s security.
The entrance gate to the complex was broken, and despite promises, had remained unfixed for months on end. The gate was reportedly chronically broken, and other tenants had felt the effect of criminal activity as a result. Tragically, one night in 2005, there was another. The two siblings were shot: the 17-year-old boy died on the scene, and the 20-year-old mother died the next day in the hospital. The baby was safe, but the criminal is still at large.
Florida Law Protects Tenants
Although the siblings’ family still has questions about who committed the crime, there was no question that the apartment complex played a role as well. Under Florida law, landlords have a duty to all tenants to repair known defects, and more importantly, to provide safe and reasonable living conditions. Especially if it could be proven that the landlord knew about the gate’s conditions, and especially if other crime had already occurred as a result, the family could hope to be at least partially compensated for the loss of their loved ones.
A jury agreed with the victims’ family. In 2009, in a civil lawsuit filed by the grieving family, the apartment complex tried to argue that it should not be held responsible because there was not sufficient evidence of a break-in. The complex claimed that because there was no evidence of forced entry, the victims must have known the person, and so the broken gate did not cause or contribute to the crime’s occurrence. The jury looked at all the evidence, and emphatically disagreed. The jury slammed the apartment complex with a $4.5 million damages award, in attempt to properly compensate the family for their loss.
Supreme Court Stands Up For Victims
Even after four years of legal battle, the struggle was not over, and the apartment complex did not give up attempts to reduce the cash award it would have to pay. The complex appealed, and an appellate judge, after reading about the trial, decided to throw out the jury’s award. However, the family did not give up. They took the case to the Florida Supreme Court, where a 5-2 court decided to uphold the award.
Beyond this individual case, the Florida Supreme Court is sending a message, commentators say, that “property owners can’t just ignore security issues.” If you have been affected by your landlord’s failed security, then that message is to you. Seek help from Fort Lauderdale negligent security attorney Scott Newmark today for help with your personal injury case.