Torts II, Pages 535–537

Kline v. 1500 Massachusetts Ave. Apartment Corp.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1979

Facts:

Plaintiff was seriously injured when she was assaulted and robbed in a hallway of her large office-apartment building, owned by defendant. Although there had been a doorman employed there, none worked at the time she was attacked, even though defendant had notice of an increasing number of assaults, larcenies, and robberies perpetrated against the tenants in the hallways.

Issue:

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[W]hether a duty should be placed on a landlord to take steps to protect tenants from foreseeable criminal acts committed by third parties

Procedural History:

District court held that defendant had no such duty to plaintiff.

Rule:

Bell: A landlord has a duty to take reasonable precautions against criminal acts against his tenants. Courts use three factors in determining this duty:

  1. Ability to exercise control
  2. Advantageous position in exercising control and minimizing risk
  3. Knowledge about the rise of criminal behavior.

Reasoning:

The landlord has the exclusive control over these portions of his premises and the exclusive power to take preventative action. While he is not obligated to be an insurer of his tenants, he is obligated to minimize the risk to them.

Note:

The landlord still does not owe the protection a police department would provide, nor is this obligation the same every apartment owner in the city would owe.

Rule/Holding:

Yes, landlords should have a duty to take preventative measures to protect tenants from foreseeable criminal acts.

Judgment:

Reversed and remanded for determination of damages.

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