Assault Victim Sues Apartment

This article discusses a Court of Appeals opinion our firm did not participate in.

Gilberto was walking home one night when he noticed two men following him. They assaulted Gilberto in a poorly lit area of the apartment complex in which he lived.

Gilberto sued the apartment complex. He alleged that the apartment was aware of numerous previous criminal incidents, and therefore the lack of a security gate created an unreasonable risk of harm.

Gilberto lived in an apartment unit with a woman and her two children but was not on the lease.  The apartment argued that since Gilberto was not on the lease, he was not a tenant. The apartment moved for summary judgment. The case was dismissed. Gilberto appealed.[1]

Generally, a party is not responsible to protect others from the criminal conduct of third persons. An exception applies if there is a special relationship. A landlord and tenant are in a special relationship under Washington law.  The duties under the special relationship extend to others in the rental property with the consent of the landlord.

However, the landlord did not consent—or even know about—Gilberto living in the apartment complex.  While Gilberto argued that he contributed to the rent his girlfriend-roommate paid, there was no evidence he ever paid rent directly to the landlord.

Gilberto also argued that a landowner owes a general duty to others legally on their property and that Gilberto was on the property legally. The Court of Appeals did not accept this argument.

While in some circumstances a business and/or landowner may be liable for injuries caused by the criminal conduct of others, this is the exception to general legal rules—and not easy to establish.

If you have been injured by criminal conduct you may be entitled to recover monetary damages and should seek a free case evaluation from an attorney.


[1] Juarez v. Bravado Apartments, LLC, unpublished (No. 72856-3-I November 9, 2015).

Posted in Premises Liability and tagged , , , , .