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What is the owner’s security responsibilities?

New York property owners and landlords are legally responsible to keep tenants and guests safe from harm. Owners and landlords who are negligent can be held responsible when they knew or should have known about a dangerous condition that caused the injury and they did not properly repair it, cordon it off or provide ample warning.

As part of this responsibilities, building owners must also protect their tenants and guests against crime. They have to discharge their common-law duty to take minimal security precautions against reasonably foreseeable illegal acts by other parties, such as a robbery or assault.

Earlier this summer, the First Department of New York’s Appellate Division reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a landlord negligence case because of the robbery and assault of a building resident. The plaintiff alleged that the owner negligently maintained the building entrance.

The building’s live-in superintendent in that case testified that the entrance door lock was operable before and after the assault. However, the plaintiff testified that the interior vestibule door was defective because she could open that door without a key for a week before the assault, and that her husband complained to the superintendent about that door.

Accordingly, the appellate court ruled that a jury could conclude that the building superintendent had sufficient time to discover and repair this lock, especially since he claimed that he inspected the door each day.

The appellate court also found that there were issues of fact that the criminal attack was foreseeable. Evidence was introduced on a police compliant concerning a homicide that occurred in front of this building a few weeks earlier. A New York City police detective also testified in a deposition that the NYPD identified the immediate vicinity in front of the building as having a robbery pattern.

Proving a premises liability case and keeping a lawsuit alive in litigation against defenses, requires legal expertise and sufficient evidence. Prompt legal advice can help assure that just and fair compensation can be obtained for serous injuries.