I am an Atlanta personal injury lawyer, and I have been blogging about premises liability law in Georgia. Premises
liability law is the determination about when a property owner or manager
is liable to someone who suffers a criminal attack on their property.
Before holding the owner or manager liable, the Georgia courts look at
whether the criminal attack was foreseeable to the property owner or manager.
In past Georgia legal blog entries, I have written about the general rules
related to premises liability law in Georgia. For example, a property
owner is not liable unless it could foresee that a criminal attack might
happen on its property. Once a property owner could foresee such an attack,
it is required to take reasonable steps to provide security to the guests
and customers coming on to its property.
When a property owner is sued because someone was attacked on its property,
the property owner tends to argue that it could not have foreseen the
crime because it was “different” from any prior crimes that
had occurred on the property. For example, property owners argue that
they could not have foreseen a violent criminal attack just because various
property crimes had been occurring on the premises or in the local area.
The owner argues that a property crime is not similar to a criminal attack.
But under Georgia law, the courts are not looking at whether the specific
crime is the same. The courts are looking at whether the owner had notice
that a criminal crime might occur. In that case, the Georgia courts have
ruled, “a high volume of prior property crimes on the premises combined
with evidence that the premises is located in a high crime area will make
evidence of individual property crimes relevant and admissible”
(Premises Liability in Georgia, § 4:8):
Prior property crimes may give a landlord notice of possible future crimes
against a person. As far back as 1997, our Supreme Court noted that it
had already “laid to rest the artificial notion that a crime against
a person could never be foreseen by previous crimes against property,”
although under the circumstances in that case, the court held the plaintiff’s
injuries were not foreseeable.
Doe v. Prudential-Bache/A.G. Spanos Realty Partners, 268 Ga. 604, 605 (492 SE2d 865) (1997).
Walker v. Aderhold Props., 303 Ga. App. 710, 712 (Ga. Ct. App. 2010).
A volume of property crimes reveals a dangerous situation and a lack of security.
Woodall v. Rivermont Apartments Ltd. Partnership, 239 Ga.App. 36, 520 S.E.2d 741 (1999), the plaintiff alleged a criminal
attack in a College Park apartment complex.
When a property is located in a high-crime area, property crimes become
Given the fact that the area adjacent to the Rivermont complex was known
as a high-violent crime area, and that defendants were concerned about
security issues relating to the increase in crime, we believe that evidence
of an increase in property crimes at the complex is relevant to whether
defendants should have foreseen a risk of personal injury to their tenants
from an attack such as the one on Woodall. In analyzing each prior property
crime individually, without reference to any context, the trial court
applied an overly rigid interpretation of the Supreme Court’s decisions
in Sturbridge and Doe.
Woodall v. Rivermont Apartments Ltd. Partnership, 239 Ga.App. 36, 520 S.E.2d
Lau’s Corp. v. Haskins, 261 Ga. 491, 492-493 (Ga. 1991), for instance, where the plaintiffs were
allowed to go to jury where proprietor of the China King Restaurant had
knowledge of one previous purse snatching in the parking lot and “possibl[y]
knew that the attack occurred in a‘high crime’ area” in Atlanta, Georgia, where the restaurant was located.